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December 19, 2016

True Tales of Pay-it-Forward

Harry M. Covert

Reading the mail has brought several terrific stories involving mighty fine people who reside in the Baltimore-Washington-Annapolis corridor. Everybody can lean in on these reports. They are perfect for this time of year and there’s no reason to put the knock on anybody.


Zippy Larson, of Baltimore, seems to know everybody high and low in Charm City and has been honored for her top-of-the-line tours. She received a card of the season that read:


Dear Zippy. Thank you for everything you have done to help me in my life. I appreciate you! God bless you!

Love, Gloria


Here’s the story:


“Gloria, the children's librarian, has two advanced degrees in her field, years of work experience, and is terrific with the kids. When her Mom got ill, she wanted to stay home, not go to a nursing home. So Gloria cut back from full time to part time, and took care of her mom at home until she died. Then Gloria tried to get her full time job back. For ten years she interviewed for full time library positions with medical coverage and pension benefits, and for ten years, she failed every interview. Others, brand new people, with fewer degrees and little or no experience, were hired.


“I met her at the library one day when I went to a new branch to pick up books. I walked out the back door, for some reason, and came upon her leading a group of wee little kids in the back room and I was enchanted. She was magical, so I'd often stop by to sit in, and watch the kids' reactions to her singing and teaching. I brought no kids to her class, just me, sitting and watching. One day, she asked to come by my house after work, and she told me her story about not getting hired full time. She added that she had an interview that week. She was about as low down as a person can be, and was trying to prepare herself for another failure.


“I had the clear impression, listening to her, she was the world’s worst at interviewing for a position. When I thought about her dilemma, I realized I knew a man in the city on the library board. He doesn't know me except by name, perhaps, many people know my name. But he is well-known in the city. He sits on a pile of money, an endowment fund that he hands out, in addition to serving on the library board.


“I knew from asking her questions that Gloria did not know how to ace an interview. In fact, she sabotages herself. I contacted him immediately, took one minute and told him three things:


– Gloria's qualifications and her magical gifts with kids;


 – I informed him that she had an interview scheduled for a position she wants and gave him the date, time and location of Gloria's interview that very week.


 – I informed him that if she does not get the job, I will personally see to it that 25 mothers with their babies will picket the Pratt Library pushing their babies' carriages and strollers on the sidewalk, up and down outside the Pratt main entrance, and across from the Catholic Basilica, and I will call in the TV stations to cover it.


“Then I forgot about it...until Gloria knocked on my door, in shock, her face stunned. Her words: "I got the job."


“Later. when she told me about the interview, I knew she had been as terrible at this interview as she was at all the others. She said the interviewer did not seem one bit interested in hiring her. In fact, Gloria had been brushed off. I knew that word had come down from above, and all Gloria had to do was show up and the job was hers. But I said not a word. She could think whatever she wanted. My gut feeling is that she does not understand, to this day, how it happened.


“Wishing to thank me, she took me to a lunch at a diner that someone had recommended to her. The food was awful. She sends me a card around this time each year with a $25.00 certificate for food at a gourmet grocer.


“She was earning $15,000 a year at the library on part time with no benefits. She has since bought a new car and goes on vacations with her boyfriend. She has medical coverage and paid vacation and paid sick time. She has asthma and other stuff that she says is wrong with her, and she often needs to see a doc. It's all covered for her now. And she will have her pension. And those darling kids learn with the best darn children's librarian I ever saw.


Certainly a pay-it-forward story. Now, the rest of this column about James Mattis, soon to become Secretary of Defense. This story reached me from several marines and U.S. Naval Academy graduates:


“A couple of months ago, when I told General Krulak, [USNA ‘64] the former Commandant of the Marine Corps, now the chair of the Naval Academy Board of Visitors, that we were having General Mattis speak this evening. He said, “Let me tell you a Jim Mattis story.”


“General Krulak said, when he was Commandant of the Marine Corps, every year, starting about a week before Christmas, he and his wife would bake hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cookies. They would package them in small bundles.


“Then on Christmas day, he would load his vehicle. At about 4 a.m., General Krulak would drive himself to every Marine guard post in the Washington-Annapolis-Baltimore area and deliver a small package of Christmas cookies to whatever Marines were pulling guard duty that day. One year, he had gone down to Quantico as one of his stops to deliver Christmas cookies to the Marines on guard duty. He went to the command center and gave a package to the lance corporal on duty.


“He asked, ‘Who’s the officer of the day?’ The lance corporal said, “Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis.”


“And General Krulak said, ‘No, no, no. I know who General Mattis is. I mean, who’s the officer of the day today, Christmas day?’


“The lance corporal, feeling a little anxious, said, ‘Sir, it is Brigadier General Mattis.”


“General Krulak said that, about that time, he spotted in the back room a cot, or a daybed. He said, ‘No, Lance Corporal. Who slept in that bed last night?’


“The lance corporal said, ‘Sir, it was Brigadier General Mattis.’


“About that time, General Krulak said that General Mattis came in, in a duty uniform with a sword, and General Krulak said, ‘Jim, what are you doing here on Christmas day? Why do you have duty?’ General Mattis told him that the young officer scheduled to have duty on Christmas day had a family, and General Mattis decided it was better for the young officer to spend Christmas Day with his family, and so he chose to have duty on Christmas Day.


“General Krulak said, ‘That’s the kind of officer that Jim Mattis is.’ ”


(Editor’s Note: Dr. Albert C. Pierce, Director of the Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics at The United Nations was a speaking on Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict in the spring of 2006. This was taken from the transcript of that lecture.)


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