This week, I lost a friend and a mentor. I had the honor of serving Tom Riddle as General Manager of his Honda dealership. I only left because God called me to become a minister. After telling him of my plans, I’ll never forget Tom’s smile and subsequent laugh. He said, “Larry, for the first time I’m speechless, I don’t know what to say except… my prayers are with you.”
Mr. Riddle was a tough but fair boss who always knew how to get the best out of me. He maintained high standards for how a business should be managed based on excellent service and he never compromised but when it came to creative thinking and selling… there was no one more exciting than Tom Riddle. He epitomized the phrase, “thinking out of the box.” There was no crazy initiative when it came to business or sales that Mr. Riddle wouldn’t try.
To this day, I owe a lot of my own willingness to think creatively and attempt new ideas to Mr. Riddle’s constant pressure to be innovative and be the best we could possibly be. I will always be grateful for his willingness to teach and mold me as he has also done for so many others.
Over the years, Tom became a close friend while encouraging my ministry and challenging my creativity. One story I wrote particularly interested him. “$7.43” was about my visit to a local supermarket where a lady in front of me, tried to buy several jars of baby food totaling $7.43. Her check was no good and the store manager asked her to leave. I made excuses but I should have given her $7.43. As a result, I learned a valuable lesson and promised to do better next time.
Mr. Riddle picked up the phone and instructed his secretary to bring a check for $743.00. “I want you to take this money put it into one hundred envelopes and give$7.43 to 100 people in need.”
As I took the check and began to thank him, Mr. Riddle asked another question. “Larry, this is my gift but what will you give?” I didn’t know how to respond but knew he expected me to do something. Mr. Riddle had given something of value and it was now my turn. But how could a preacher give a gift that would make a real difference?
Peter wrote in 1 Peter: “Each one should use whatever gift they have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” The message is that all of us have something to give of great value. We simply need to discover our God-given gift and use it.
A soft voice inside kept saying: “The best gift is your book.”
“But Lord,” I protested: “I haven’t even paid the printing bill yet!”
The following Sunday, I shared the story of Mr. Riddle’s gift and passed out 100 envelopes along with 100 copies of my book. The instructions were to give one envelope and one book to someone in need and tell the story, “$7.43.” Two weeks later, Mr. Riddle was a guest in our church and heard the first-hand accounts of the lives touched by those 100 unique gifts.
One woman experiencing a divorce took the kids to a local restaurant and then read the book for continued devotional support. Another gift was sent to a man in prison who sent the money home for his daughter’s Christmas present and then passed the book around to fellow inmates. A third gift was given to a family struggling through a recent job layoff.
One person after another stood and spoke of lives touched and how they felt led to become even more involved with the person who received the gift. They also spoke of the joy they felt offering something encouraging to a person in need. In addition to helping at least 100 people, Mr. Riddle taught me a valuable lesson on the importance and the joy of giving: All for $7.43.
Mr. Riddle: you have been a major influence on me and many others. It was an honor to serve and know you and your family. I will never forget your lessons, your friendship and your love.