It’s 1895 and Milton Hershey is an aspiring business man. His dream? Milk chocolate. Unheard of in the US. No matter that he doesn’t have a product yet or even a winning recipe. In Derry Township, PA, factories are already being built and workers hired. And he’s just brought in William F. R. Murrie to interview for the sales manager position. He’s heard of Murrie and feels confident that he’s the right man for the job. So, he tells him that whatever he’s making he’ll beat and offers him a commission on sales. Murrie, of course, is interested and asks to see a sample of the product. But Hershey, showing only a hint of regretful truth–telling, admits quite matter–of–factly that there is no product—yet. But, he says, with great finality, “There will be,” and, in fact, “the product will sell itself.”
Murrie pauses. His squinting eyes unveiling his disbelief, “So, you’re hiring me to sell something that doesn’t exist . . . something people don’t know anything about . . . that’s also gonna sell itself?”
And, in a suspended moment, just long enough for raised eyebrows, Hershey replies, “Is that a problem?” [See The Food that Built America, Season 1, ep. 2]
No, indeed, it was not. For very soon after, Hershey would call on an old acquaintance, a scientist, who would create the winning formula. In addition, an entire town would be built to support his dairy farming enterprise, needed to create the milk for the milk chocolate, and he would, in the end, give his entire fortune away as a philanthropic gift.
Now fast forward to 1973. Mother Teresa of Calcutta has just passed away and I’m in Manchester, NH, for a memorial service. I hear a visiting Cardinal tell a story of how he once rode in a limo with Mother Teresa and that during that ride she’d told him she was going to teach him to pray. Sheepishly, he listened carefully particularly as she culminated her instructions with, “I always thank God ahead of time for what I’m about to receive.”
“thank God ahead of time . . .” And, so it was she was able to create a world–wide organization of compassionate service to the poorest of the poor based on nothing but divine providence. Amen.
So, what did Milton Hershey and Mother Teresa have in common? One a business man and the other a Catholic nun? I would say it was more than faith. It was an impenetrable, incorruptible, there–is–nothing–I–believe–in–more than in that something bigger than myself. Each held the seed of a vision for the future. Each marched straight forward, not according to the dictates of a business plan but, rather, in response to an inner drumbeat that was already moving them. Hershey build factories and hired employees in anticipation of the milk chocolate formula he knew was coming and Mother Teresa drew letters in the sand, with a simple stick, in anticipation of the first school she, also, knew would be created.
So, what can we gleam from their stories for our own lives? Hint: in this case, the important details are not in the nitty–gritty—but, rather, in that something bigger, that energy, that love if you will, that takes over when our hearts become seized by a dream, idea, goal or project. Still, it’s hard to wrap our minds around the possibilities for ourselves.
“Great for them but I’m not like them!” we often think contemplating the great ones. Understandable . . . but look closer. They weren’t special or different from you and me. According to Mother Teresa’s Mother Superior, with whom she lived for many years, she and the other sisters saw nothing special about Sister Teresa. And, I would guess that Murrie had quite the inner dialogue going on about Hershey in his private thoughts!
“Yes, but I’m not meant to do something big like that!” we often protest. Perhaps. All of us aren’t destined to do large deeds in the public arena. Sometimes we may hear that drumbeat, that love, in the private arena of our own hearts and feel called only to share with family and, perhaps, a few close friends. No matter. For when love has its way, we can rest assured that the something bigger is at play and all we need do is respond to that inner drumbeat now already moving us. That something bigger will take care of all deliveries small and large, now one and the same, for love being infinite recognizes no difference. But, sadly, if we shy away from the drumbeat, the love calling us, of this I am certain: a song that could have echoed sweetly through the caverns of this one heart of God in which we all live . . . will remain silent.
Something bigger . . . so, what if, when hearing that inner drumbeat, feeling seized by that love for some new idea, project or venture, we, too, said, “Yes!” And, what if we, too, had the courage to follow as if it was already quite assured? What if we, too, were willing to give our all to some wonder already moving us trusting our efforts will serve some greater good we’ve yet to imagine?
If so, maybe we, too, would find our ordinary, sequential, linear, days suddenly rolled back, spilling into each moment; our rote, well–rehearsed, dialogues paused with suspended anticipation holding the yet unanswered question; our clearly defined outcomes detoured toward destinations playing hide–in–seek just around the next bend; our footsteps lightened to match that giggle now escaping unabated from our wandering hearts, even as our logical minds look on bobbing and perplexed . . .
And, perhaps then we could imagine when others asked about it, even seeing their faces all wrinkled–up with doubt, skepticism, even disbelief, that we, too, could answer with raised eyebrows . . .
“Is that a problem?”