A businessman is to receive an award at a special Gala dinner with the mayor but is seated next to an old woman in a horrible dress and a straw hat.
George Tanatos straightened his bowtie and shot his cuffs. He looked like a million dollars, which was just a fraction of what he was worth, and tonight he was being honored by the mayor for his contributions to the community.
Tanatos Industries was a big employer in the city and a major patron of the local cultural scene, and George felt that the Man of the Year Award he was about to receive was richly deserved.
He was looking forward to rubbing shoulders with the city’s movers and shakers and celebrities, but when he got to the event, he was in for a bit of a shock.
He was ushered into the luxurious restaurant’s huge private room by one of the mayor’s aides and led to one of the tables right at the front, the VIP table, George was sure.
And then he saw the woman who had been seated next to him. According to the name place marker in front of her, her name was Mrs. Juliana Farlow. Juliana Farlow was a big woman and the dress she wore clung to her every curve.
She was wearing a nylon day dress printed with a swirl of glaring neon colors, a ridiculous straw hat firmly clapped to the back of her head, and spectacles perched on the tip of her nose.
George looked around the room. The other tables were filled with men in tuxedos and gorgeous, sophisticated women in sleek designer dresses. There had to be a mistake! George was irritated, and the irritation was turning into anger.
He leaned over towards Juliana with his most charming smile. “So,” he said, “are you on the cleaning staff? I’m asking, because of the way you’re dressed…”
Juliana turned towards him, and a flush colored her cheeks. George was encouraged. “Are you a guest?” he asked. “Or did you just sneaked in? They’re bound to kick you out you know!”
Don’t judge people by their appearance, financial or social status.
The woman’s eyes were filled with tears, and she turned her face away. But he continued, “Where did you get that dress? The Good Will bin? And that hat…what is it? Trailer trash chic?”
Then George saw the mayor walking towards his table and decided he’d resolve this with him. He was sure the mayor would tell his aide to move the old woman to another table at the back of the room.
But to his surprise, the mayor greeted the woman by name, smiled, and shook her hand. George got to his feet and walked towards the man. “Mr. Mayor!” he said, extending his hand. “Good to see you!”
“Mr. Tanatos,” the mayor said, “It’s an honor to have you here tonight!”
“Is it?” asked George with a sour smile. “I thought I was here to be honored, but judging by my table companion, I’m beginning to doubt that! Have you SEEN her?”
The mayor threw George an odd look and pulled his hand out of his grasp. “Are you referring to Mrs. Farlow?” The mayor’s voice was cool.
“If you’re referring to that dime-store relic, then yes,” George said arrogantly. “I am referring to Mrs. Farlow. As a man who has contributed so much to this community, I definitely deserve more exalted company and more respect!”
“Respect?” asked the mayor, and now his voice dripped ice. “Mrs. Farlow is here to receive a posthumous medal. Her son, David, was the fireman who died saving 12 people from the downtown fire in April. I think she’s given more to this community than anyone, including you and me. If you don’t feel honored in her presence, you don’t deserve to be here.”
And with that, the mayor turned his back on George and walked away. George sat down, his face burning with shame. This woman he had humiliated and belittled had lost her son in an act of heroism, and what had George done?
He’d thrown his money around, and the first million, he had to admit, had been a gift from his father. He’d taken the seed money and built an empire for profit, but Mrs. Farlow’s son had laid down his life for others.
When the Mayor gave his speech and called Mrs. Farlow up to the stage to receive the medal for bravery for her son, George Tanatos was on his feet applauding.
Then it was George’s turn. The mayor announced the Man of the Year Award, and George walked up and received the little statuette and the microphone with a smile.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Mayor,” George said. “As honored as I am to be the recipient of this award, I must decline it. There is another who is more worthy to be Man of the Year, David Farlow, and since he can’t be here with us tonight, I’d like to ask his mother, Mrs. Juliana Farlow to accept it in his name, with our deep gratitude and respect!”
The room was on its feet and applauding wildly as the blushing Mrs. Farlow once again climbed on to the stage, and when she got there, George bowed and respectfully kissed her hand.
What can we learn from this story?
Don’t judge people by their appearance, financial or social status. George despised Mrs. Farlow because she looked poor and badly dressed but she was worthy of great respect.
The wise learn from their mistakes. George was a good enough man to realize he’d erred and to make amends to Mrs. Farlow by paying homage to her son.
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