“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . .” – Psalm 139:14
Much has been written in the business news the past few days about Herb Kelleher, the iconic co-founder and former long-time CEO of Southwest Airlines, who recently passed away. As we all know, Southwest Airlines was established on a model of providing low-cost air travel, and over the years grew to be one of the largest, most efficient and most profitable airlines in the history of the industry. Much of the credit goes to Kelleher and his leadership and business acumen. But more notably the airline’s success is directly linked to the way Kelleher treated people, especially employees and customers. Kelleher valued human beings above all, not solely for what they did, but simply because they are fellow humans. He loved people, and he believed in them. It was his hallmark.
Reading about Herb Kelleher reminded me of a life lesson I once learned from one of my most influential teachers, B. F. Jordan, a man who besides being a great educator became in my adult life both a friend and mentor, as he did with many of his former students. As a teenager, though, and being one of the better students in my class, I became pretty full of myself. So, one day in a conversation with Mr. Jordan I popped off about another kid, a struggling C student and notorious trouble-maker, that he would surely never amount to anything. To my surprise and embarrassment Jordan took exception and came to the guy’s defense. Oh no, he rebuked, he’s got as much potential as anyone in this school.
That conversation took place so many years ago I have long forgotten who that kid was I disparaged. What I’ve not forgotten, though, is the life lesson I learned that day from B. F. Jordan; for he understood something I didn’t, that every human being – including that notorious troublemaker, as well as me – is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by our Creator, each in a unique way, endowed with purpose and potential.
I have no idea whatever happened with that troublemaker kid, but my guess is I was wrong, that he’s done great in life. If so, no doubt it is to B. F. Jordan’s credit who valued him, believed in him, and encouraged him to reach his highest potential. Just as Southwest Airlines’ success can be directly linked to the “people” culture created and fostered by Herb Kelleher who valued people, believed in them, and saw their potential; for each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made” – created in the image of God.