The People Who Walk the Talk

In 1953, reporters and city officials gathered at a Chicago railroad station to meet the previous year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner. When the train came to a stop, a giant of a man, with bushy hair and a large mustache, stepped from the train. Cameras flashed and various city officials approached and began telling  him how honored they were to meet him. The man politely thanked them and then, looking over their heads, asked if he could be excused for a moment.

He quickly walked through the crowd to an elderly black woman who was struggling with two large suitcases. He picked up the bags and, with a smile, escorted the woman to a bus. After helping her aboard, he wished her a safe journey. As he returned to the greeting party he apologized, “Sorry to have kept you waiting.” The man was Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the famous physician and missionary who had spent his life serving the poorest of the poor in Africa. One member of the reception committee said with great admiration to the reporter standing next to him, “That’s the first time I ever saw a sermon walking.”

What Is It About Them?

Most of the people we personally admire are not Nobel Laureates. Rather, they are just people who “walk the talk” – e.g. our parents, our colleagues or our leaders. It is those individuals whose personal character, professional excellence, undaunted courage, ingenuity and charity cause us to, as “admires’” Latin root implies, “look in wonder.”

I have lived long enough to know that  we all have our share of handicaps. So it  is not the fact that people have flaws, but the efforts they make to overcome them that attracts my admiration. It may be as simple as John Maxwell, who looked at his face in the mirror at 17 and said, “You know John, you’re not the best looking guy in the world.” Then he broadened his signature smile and gazed at his reflection concluding, “There, that looks a lot better!”

Or consider Sir Douglas Bader, a pilot who lost both his legs in a plane crash before WWII. Yet he was fitted with artificial legs and resumed flying. In 1939, when Germany and England went to war, he enlisted in the Royal Air Force. Flying with artificial legs, he shot down 22 enemy airplanes in the Battle of Britain before he himself was shot down and captured by the Germans. His capturers had such admiration for him, they contacted the British and requested they drop replacement  legs for the ones he broke when bailing out  of his plane. Then, after four attempts to escape from their POW compound, every evening Sir Bader had to surrender his legs
to the Germans when he went to bed!

Credit Where It’s Due

It is good that we acknowledge admirable people, since they motivate us all to do better and to be better. But the people I admire don’t do it for the recognition. Indira Ghandi, who remains the world’s second longest serving female Prime Minister and the first woman to become prime minister in India once said, “There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group – there is less competition.”

They are the ones that amaze us with wonder, instead of the people who simply make us wonder.


A respected author and speaker, Eric Wright is the assignment editor for SpaceCoast Business magazine and the founder and pastor of Journey Church in Suntree.