I’ve been wanting you all to meet a dear friend and trusted confidant of mine, mostly because everyone needs a Ross DeMerchant in his or her life. During the 90s I had the privilege of working with Ross for several years. He showed me what the term “servant leadership” can look like on a day-to-day basis.
He routinely brought in Perkins muffins (you know, the ones the size of a human head) for random departments around our office building just to be nice. This wasn’t normal behavior where we worked.
When Ross asks people, “How are you doing?” he wants an honest answer. Every single week my social media feed is full of photos of Ross meeting up with people of all ages and from all walks of life simply to encourage them. His main priority in life could be summed up simply: to love people well. In my opinion, that alone makes him one of the most successful people I know.
During our years working together, I mostly remember a lot of laughter. I’m not talking polite, office-volume laughter. I’m talking belly laughing until tears were rolling and my face hurt. When he was telling stories to our staff, neighboring office workers often checked in to see what all the noise was about because they could hear us howling all the way down the hall. And when got on the phone with his brother, we braced ourselves for a whole new level hilarity. I almost called an ambulance more than once. “Ross? Are you breathing?? Say something!”
He loves his family fiercely. He has one of the best marriages I know of. He would make no apology for leaving work if Shirley or one of his kids needed him. Ross showed me how to be myself, to keep laughing, and to love people well, no matter what else I decided to do with my life. I am so grateful I had that kind of example to follow before I had kids of my own.
I also need to tell you that Ross is cool, mostly because he is admittedly uncool. He does the kind of things I do when I’m trying to be smooth, like sticking a swizzle stick up his nose at a fancy-dancy cocktail party.(I don’t mind telling you, it remained lodged there until he removed it by hand! Yes, that happened!)
Once I had the unprecedented joy of watching him introduce himself to Wayne Watson (remember him?) and let me just say… it played out way differently than Ross had rehearsed it in his mind. I still DIE laughing every time I think about it.
years decades after we worked together, life took Ross’s family and my family in different directions but we tried to stay in contact, usually less successfully than we wished. He and his family experienced some challenging years, and so did we. Regardless of where we were in life, whenever we and our spouses would reconnect we still kept the joy alive and agreed that loving people is worth the risk, even when they disappoint us.
Not too long ago, we reconnected for a coffee appointment and I could see that Ross was about to birth a really important idea. He had become a grandfather and was starting to realize that if he didn’t write the book brewing inside him, he would be disobeying his calling. (By the way, if you have an idea burning in your soul like that, you simply must do it.)
Today, little more than 2 years after that coffee appointment, Ross is the author of 26 Letters: How To Have The Conversations of Your Lifetime. It’s a thoughtful book about leaving your legacy for future generations. Guided by the 26 letters of the alphabet and stories from Ross’s journey, this book helps you consider key words you want to be remembered by and will hopefully prompt you to share your own important stories with your kids, grandkids and the generations that will follow.
Ross is a gifted storyteller (and, in case I hadn’t mentioned it, a funny human being). But he is also deeply sensitive and tenderhearted, so he knows how to make that turn from a wacky story to a moving, heart-stirring point. So if you or someone you know happens to be looking for a fresh face to inspire people at a special event or conference, he would be a great chose. Check him out or contact him here at www.rossdemerchant.com.
I’m not telling you about Ross for any other reason than I think you’ll really like him, and I know he will really like you! I think his book is such a wonderful way to begin thinking about the things you want to impart to your kids and grandkids while you’ve got time.
Also? His kids turned out wonderfully. In fact, Ross’s son was my son’s first boss. Let me tell you… the apple did not fall far from the tree with that one. I mention that only because Ross can speak authoritatively on the subjects of leaving an eternal legacy and loving people well, because I have watched him do exactly that – in his family and with those around him – for the 25 years I’ve known him.
I hope you’ll get to know him. And feel free to let him know I sent you, so maybe he will read my blog! 🙂
Here he is (below) being a charming grandfather. I mean, seriously, this was SO worth stalking his Facebook!