The Corporation and the bag lady

Here’s some unexpected humility encountered whilst in the city last week. I was arriving at Global HQ for certainly one of the worlds largest companies, and was just signing in at the front desk. I was having my security photo taken for a pass when I heard next to me, a quiet but strong and enquiring voice coming from a diminutive figure at the desk next to me. As she spoke to the man behind the desk, this woman (I didn’t know her name) looked up at me and said “hi”, to which I of course replied “hi” back. Her circumstances were clearly unfortunate; she quite literally wore torn carrier bags for makeshift shoes, and had tied strips of frayed material securing her ‘shoes’ in place whilst wrapped around her legs. The rest of her clothing was in similar condition. Most will know the stereo type associated with this kind of hardship so I won’t labour the point.

A very well spoken somewhat authoritarian voice gestured to the representative behind the desk as to how his day was going. The same question was echoed back; I was half expecting a string of abuse as it just seemed at the time a little insensitive, but actually a light hearted conversation was struck. All the more surprising to see this lady produce some very official looking documentation and ask to see the Chairman of the Board. I suppose it’s not something you’d expect to see – which made it seem all the more strange when I learnt that this unsuspecting character was and is a shareholder of the company.

Fifty minutes later I left my meeting and headed for the exit. There in the lobby relaxing on the leather sofa with a coffee, reading The Economist was this woman, once, but no longer an employee but retaining a vested interest in the running of the company – and Suddenly this multinational corporation did indeed have a human face.

It felt refreshing and a little surreal to see this huge pillar of the corporate world interacting with this individual, not in terms of the charitable affiliations that I know it has in no small measure, but with this person in the lobby resting and sipping coffee from a china cup!

One of those moments that just puts a smile on your face 🙂

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