“Imagine it, an emporium? With all kinds of items as far as the eye can see. Cambridge’s will be the most important store in all of England.” Winston Jr. was absolutely beaming with excitement. His Father smiled at him. He let his son enjoy the adventure of his imagination for a few minutes, then sat him down.
“Son, you have a bright and an exciting future ahead. I don’t doubt that you could make this the single most vital merchant location in all of Europe. If you choose to do that, I’ll back you one hundred and twenty percent. Before you do though, I’d like you to look around.”
Winston Jr. did so with an open heart. He knew his Father had something to teach him, and even if it wasn’t what he wanted to learn, he trusted him. “Son, do you see all of the things that we carry here? Is there another store in our community?
How many years have we been in business? I submit that, on a much smaller scale than you imagined, we are an emporium. We have everything from Mr. Clark’s foot pillows to Mrs. Carol’s pinching shears.” His son nodded his head, but still had a look of uncertainty on his face.
“When I opened this store, it was to woo your Mother, not to make money. At this cash register, the Doctor delivered you because we were snowed in, and you got in a hurry.” He didn’t say it but Winston Jr. was always in a hurry, it came with the eagerness of youth.
“That happened on a Tuesday at 12:05. I opened this store on a Monday at 11:30. Your sister Sophia, was born on a Wednesday at 7:00. I could also give you the times of Nicholas, Katrina, and Miles.
This store is not only filled with every item this town could need. It’s filled with memories, with laughter, with life. It has in it’s fibers a love for the past, an excitement for the present, and a hope for the
Winston was on his feet, the excitement of wisdom was pumping through his older joints. “It’s not only our family that has invested here. Your girl’s parents met in the gardening section. The Mayor of our little hamlet was convinced to run in the produce section. This place is gleaming with the history of living, breathing people.
None of them have made us millionaires, but they have made a difference in our lives, and they’ve blessed us to make a difference in others.” “As I say, you could very well make this bigger than Harrods, but before you do, think of this. I always say, ‘Nothing ever happens at 4:00.’ Why do you think I do that?”
With that, Winston left his son standing and headed for the car. They sat silently as they began the short journey from town to home. The younger Winston was struggling with this information. He still didn’t completely understand. “Why could you do one and not do the other?”
“Oh you could, without question, I chose not to for one reason. All of that time, all of that energy to build an empire. I had to make the choice too, that’s where I got the phrase ‘Nothing ever happens at 4:00.’ I looked ahead in time, and saw my face fifty years in the future. I saw two versions of it.”
“What were they?” Winston smiled, he had his attention. “One was wearing a thousand dollar suit. I was so important that the most powerful business men were at my elbows. Everything sparkled, including my complexion. I was happy, I was rich, I even had halfway decent relationships with my family.”
“I almost chose that path, until I looked at the empire I had built. It was a galleria of merchandise, it made only one thing, money to buy more merchandise. It would go on after my death, and after the death of my next two successors. “
“You see, I remember the names of businessmen that everyone else has forgotten. Americans watch the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade every year without knowing something. They watch without realizing that the letters R.H. were in front of Macy before the parade followed it.
He hadn’t needed my help to turn a store into an empire. Neither had those famous men who came before him, and neither would those who came after. If the business empire was going to be built anyway, why waste my energy building it?”
“That’s when I saw the other version of my face. I was economically successful with a good business. Our store supplied the entire town. More importantly, we were friends with our neighbors. We were truly, and not in lip service only, involved in our Church.”
“I may not have had the ear of tycoons, but the most important men in our town asked for my advice. They did so, not only in business, but in conditions of the heart, life adventures, and in mattes of the soul.”
“Instead of a decent relationship with my family, we were completely in love with one another. Every member of our immediate family actually liked the others. We would have arguments, face disagreement, even snap at times. When the day ended though, we would love each other.”
They got out of the car and made their way up the snowy walkway. Winston Jr. asked his Father, “When did you make your decision?” Winston smiled, stopping briefly on the stoop. “When I was 21, underneath the Olsen Clock at 3:59pm on a Monday afternoon.”