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It was twenty years ago.

I was a manager of a department in a corporate office outside of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

I was about to kick off a two day meeting I was hosting for managers from across the country.  I arrived early at the conference center in the hotel, to check the set up and equipment, and visualize my facilitation of the day.

I was tight; pre-meeting jitters.

An African-American housekeeping employee was doing some early morning cleaning of the area.  Noticing I needed some help, he went out of his way to assist me with some last minute checks and adjustments.

I thanked him for his help, recognizing and applauding him for his clear commitment to serve.

I sensed that he was special.  Even before he said his special goodbye.

On his way out, in response to my thanks, he simply said, “Just keepin’ the dream alive, Mr. Greco; just keepin’ the dream alive.”

*     *     *     *     *

To this day I wonder what he meant.

I think it would be a stretch for me to say that he influenced my thinking that day.  I don’t really remember, but I don’t think I thought about him at all over the two days, as I was immersed in the meeting with the managers.

But; it’s twenty-something years later, and I haven’t forgotten him.

Don’t you think that’s odd?

My only take-away is this:  lasting impressions, it seems, can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time.  People make impacts on other people out of all proportion to their power, or authority, or criticality of the interaction.

So treat people right, I guess.  You may be remembered.  You never know.

But how to explain the impression after twenty years?

I already said that I sensed he was special.  How, or why, eludes me.

But maybe the lasting impression may in fact have had nothing whatsoever to do with him, and everything to do with me.  Could it be that, in my particular state of mind that morning — tight; stressed — I was susceptible; impressionable?

That’s the best I can do.  Quite clearly, I really don’t know what to make of this.

Perhaps you can?  Feel free to weigh in if you have an angle.

All I have is a memory of someone I met in passing; someone who, in the space of minutes, in the role of servant in an unremarkable situation, made a lifelong impression.

I have the distinct memory of him saying goodbye.  He said he was keepin’ the dream alive.

It’s just odd, don’t you think?