Working to Make a Difference

An introspective look at life through the fading eyes of a genius.

As our 28 year old daughter lay ill in Emory University Hospital, a wonderful second-generation Spanish surgeon knelt down and held my wife’s hands to share words of wisdom he learned from his father. He imparted to us what a great privilege it is to be with a family in times of crisis.

Seeing the genuine, unvarnished side of humanity, free of any airs or worldly concerns, he said, “Do not be afraid or run away. Embrace the reality of the circumstance and be forever comforted by the peace that will descend upon you.”

These are words that have stayed with us for many years. How ironic  that now, nearly 20 years later and Linda at rest, I have stumbled upon the wonderful prose of another noble Spaniard. In one of his last messages written to friends as he bowed from public life to deal with complications from lymphatic cancer, noted writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez shared wonderful thoughts and insights reminiscent of the “unvarnished manner” described above.

Several lines in particular inspired me, and I hope that sharing his wisdom perhaps may inspire you as well.

Garcia Marquez, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, said, “I would continue where others stopped and rise when others slept.”

Indeed, this to me is the very premise practiced and perfected by industry titans, such as Chester and Chet Cadieux from QuikTrip in Tulsa, Okla., the entire Sheetz family in Pennsylvania and the late Charlie Dake, brother Bill, and son Gary at Stewart’s Shops in upstate New York, as they—and so many others—have elevated our industry to proud new standards.

Keeping Focused
In another poignant passage, Garcia Marquez wrote, “Everyone wants to live at the top of the mountain, forgetting that how we climb is all that matters.”

Green Oil’s Operations Manager Walter Potts, is a case in point, setting an example that son Ray—Green Oil’s controller—has championed and elevated to new heights. The Potts family has a simple, frugal, God and family focus that leaves them comfortable with their chosen spot on the mountain.

No matter your age, status or current position in life, aspiring to improve is the mark of a leader. “If God allowed me one more piece of life, I would sleep less and dream more,” Garcia Marquez said. This is an art form exemplified by John MacDougall, founder and president of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes in upstate New York.

MacDougall’s leadership and compassion are proof that there is a place for smaller operations in this industry and that hard work allows for dreams to come true.

As leaders in the convenience store industry, while we might not always be able to turn life around, we are definitely in a position to strongly influence others in a positive manner. We would all take pleasure and pride in knowing we played even a small part in that process.

To that end, Garcia Marquez said, “If I know that these are the last minutes that I would see you, I would tell you how much I love you and wouldn’t assume that you know it.”

This should serve as a reminder to  us all that life is fleeting and that we are all supported and uplifted by family, friends and others more than we realize, including our coworkers. Make the time to let these people know how important they are to you—perhaps today. You’ll never regret the gesture and it will never be forgotten.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at


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