Christmas condolences for a local business founder

My condolences to the family of Ray Hoffman, who just passed away this week.  Mr. Hoffman and his family have spent decades in Springfield building a successful business (Wiley’s Office Furniture).  See if my experience corresponds with the image we get these days of small business people.

I worked in the Wiley warehouse as a temp in the mid 1980’s after returning to Springfield. I was taking night courses to finish the Accounting degree I’d been neglecting; besides my wife and daughter, we’d just added our first son to the budget.

I’d been there for several months by this time of year, and the guys I worked with were pretty excited about the upcoming annual Christmas party.  Besides closing early for a company feast in the warehouse, it also meant bonus checks.  They could be pretty substantial if it had been a good year for the business, and it had been a very good year.

When the invitations were passed out, I got one, too.  I thought it was awfully nice to include me since I was there through a temp agency.  That would’ve freaked a Human Resources Department manager out, but small business people do things like that.

The big day rolled around and everyone gathered for the feed.  It was good food and good company, and after a short review of the year, Mr. Hoffman started passing out the highly anticipated envelopes.  As he went around the room, he stopped at me and said “Here you go, Jerry,” and handed me an envelope.  I assumed they’d thoughtfully got me a Christmas card or something so I wouldn’t have to just sit while everyone else opened theirs.

I thanked him and opened it, and was surprised to see a check in the envelope (this is where that HR person would be clutching their chest).   Again expecting to see some nominal token of appreciation, I was stunned.  I don’t recall now exactly how much it was, but it did take care of a chunk of that month’s rent.  I know I made a point of thanking him later for the completely unexpected gift.  I believe he suggested that I use some of it to take my wife out for a nice dinner.  I believe I did.

Reading about Mr. Hoffman’s passing reminded me of that simple act of generosity, and I intend to thank him again by paying it forward to a couple of the charities his family named.

Maybe you’ve also been blessed like I have over the years with unexpected generosity and good luck.  Maybe you should consider doing a little something extra this year.  I hear there’s people that could use it.  If you don’t have a favorite charity, I’m sure Friend-in-Deed is still accepting donations.

Merry Christmas

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