subterranean self worth.
March 11, 2008
“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club
September 16, 2003. Petiu George Ciorau had finished up his night shift at a grocery store and was returning home on the Toronto subway. The part-time 22-year old was walking on the central platform, with his head down, when he saw an elderly woman stumble and fall onto the tracks.
As hundreds of other people looked on, Mr. Ciorau jumped down onto the tracks, lifted up the frail woman, stepped over the third rail – which carried 550 volts DC – and pressed her up against the outer wall.
The train came to a halt a meter and a half from them.
Without a second thought, Mr. Ciorau had risked his life to save another.
Hundreds looked on, but did nothing. Businessmen, executives, entrepreneurs, professionals of all types, the “leaders of tomorrow” – go-getters, action-oriented Type-A individuals. None of them did anything, with their self-preservationist attitudes, their custom-tailored suits, their BlackBerries, their café lattes – the shining stars of Canadian society through and through.
No, it took the actions of a young, part-time grocery store employee. Mr. Ciorau said he didn’t even remember taking off his backpack.
A Toronto firefighter at the scene said he would recommend Mr. Ciorau be hired as a firefighter, and that he deserved the Order of Canada for his amazing act of bravery.
I thought about that story for some time. I asked myself if I would have done the same thing in that situation.
A month later my wife and I were having Thanksgiving dinner with her family, and some family friends. As usual, the post dinner conversation was lively, but one of the guests said something that took me aback.
The speaker, an old family friend and university professor, was dominating the conversation as usual and was telling us that, in his honest opinion, you had to have a Ph.D. or he wouldn’t even consider hiring you for any position in his department, because you weren’t worthy.
I could see the hurt in my brother-in-law’s eyes from across the room. He is a proud man, a family man, the hardest working man I know, and no, he does not have a Ph.D. He drives a truck for a living, and would give you the shirt off his back.
So I spoke up. I openly disagreed with the speaker, and told him this story of bravery. I went on to say that had all of us been in that situation, the only one of us who would have likely done anything was my brother-in-law, the truck driver. Not me. And certainly not a fat old university professor with a Ph.D.
Self worth should not be measured by education, or financial wealth, or social status. It is a very personal thing, and it should be measured by our actions and attitudes towards others.
No one will remember how much money you had, the car you drove, the clothes you wore. They will remember how you treated them in your daily interactions, personal and professional.
Kurt Vonnegut once asked his son, Mark, about life. His son said to him, “Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”
It is what you do with what you have been given that makes you stand out.
Mr. Ciorau understood this, and acted accordingly. To my knowledge, he has not received the Order of Canada to this day.