One stormy night many years ago, an elderly man and his wife entered the lobby of a small hotel in Philadelphia. Trying to get out of the rain, the couple approached the front desk hoping to get a room for the night. “We’d like a room, please,” the husband requested. The hotel clerk, a friendly man with a winning smile, looked at the couple and explained that there were three conventions in town. “All of our rooms are taken,” the clerk said.
“But I can’t send a nice couple like you out in the rain at 1:00 in the morning. Would you perhaps be willing to sleep in my room? It’s not exactly a suite, but it will be good enough to make you folks comfortable for the night.”
When the couple declined, the clerk insisted.
So the couple agreed to spend the night in the clerk’s room.
As he paid his bill the next morning, the elderly man said to the clerk, “You’re an exceptional man. Finding people who are both friendly and helpful is rare these days. You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I’ll build one for you.”
Two years passed. The clerk was still managing the hotel in Philly when he received a letter from the old man. It recalled that stormy night and enclosed was a round-trip ticket to New York, asking the young man to pay him a visit. The old man met him in New York, and led him to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.
He then pointed to a great new building there, a palace of reddish stone, with turrets and watchtowers thrusting up to the sky.
“That,” he said, “is the hotel I’d like you to manage.”
That old man’s name was William Waldorf Astor, and the magnificent structure was the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The clerk who became the first manager was George C. Boldt. This young clerk never foresaw how his simple act of sacrificial service would lead him to become the general manager of the world’s most glamorous hotel (source: Growingleaders.com).
I’ve heard this story a hundred times. Each time it raises the hairs on the back of my neck. Each time it teaches me the difference between “service” and sacrificial service. And how when you go the extra mile in serving others, you never know how your own life may change.