Yesterday in a meeting, one of the participants was a young woman who said she had been in one of my training programs 15 years ago, and she had repeated one of the stories to her children many times—so much so that her teenage daughter recently told her, “Mom, I get it…try new things!”
Here’s the story:
For years I lived in St. Louis. There’s a wonderful frozen custard place in St. Louis called Ted Drewes. There are two locations, one on Grand Avenue and one on Chippewa. Chippewa is where the famous Route 66 passed through the city. You can’t tell anymore but it’s neat to know that the highway was there once. The frozen custard is awesome. For me, if you go to St. Louis, experiencing Ted Drewes custard is more important than seeing the arch.
I used to go to Ted Drewes on Saturday night, late…maybe 11 PM, and it would be crowded, especially on the hot, sultry summer nights. One evening I was standing in a long line, actually in the street just off the curb. In my anxiety to get out of the street, I was pressing closer to the elderly women just ahead of me, and I overheard their conversation. One of the ladies was named Emma, which I remember because my Grandfather had five or six sisters and my favorite was Emma. Here’s how the conversation between Emma and her friend went:
“What are you going to have Emma?”
“Chocolate, I love their chocolate.”
“Isn’t there something else you’d like to order?”
“Oh, I always think about getting a banana split…I’ve always wanted to try one and I never have.”
“You’ve never had a banana split?”
“I don’t know, perhaps because in our family you have to eat everything you order, and I can’t eat a whole banana split.”
Emma’s friend was cute and said, “Well, Emma, I don’t see your mom around anymore!”
Emma got a little defensive and replied, “How about you? Every time we’re on our way over here, you tell me you’re going to get the Hawaiian Sundae, and then you don’t.”
“I know, I know… tonight I think I will!”
Then they got into a wonderful conversation about what they might order. I was getting a bit frustrated because I realized I always get a Chocolate Concrete, which they sometimes pass to you through the window upside down. I always get that.
Finally, Emma and her friend decided to get a banana split and the Hawaiian Sundae and make it a party.
A few minutes later, we all reached the window and the young man asked Emma, “What are you going to have, ma’am?”
“Chocolate!” said Emma.
“Me, too!” said her friend.
In that moment you could see their past reach right out and choose their future. Our past is like that—it combines with our desire for comfort to choose our future—a future that is the same as our past. That’s a good thing actually. It’s great to be comfortable in life. Still, while we want to honor the past, it’s important not to be constrained by it—to be free to choose a new path.
It’s a story I’ve shared many times, and the parents in my training programs have understood that this is a place where role modeling can have an impact on their kids. It’s something we can do it in small, safe ways.
“Let’s drive home a different way today.”
“I think I’ll order something different today.”
“Let’s go find some new books to read.”
“Let’s take our walk on a different street today.”
“Let’s wear a new color today…a color we’ve never worn before.”
“Let’s change seating places at dinner.”
“Let’s eat dessert first tonight!”
“Let’s try a new ride at the state fair.”
The point is to teach our kids to experience life and learn to be comfortable with being a little bit uncomfortable!
Oh, yes, I ordered chocolate!