I was approached last week by a student from one of the professional universities in the Hague looking for information. She and her fellow students were preparing a fictitious case regarding a merger between KLM, Air France and JAL. Her task was to examine training possibilities to insure that the merger addressed cultural differences.

Coincidentally, I had a meeting planned for the next day, and one of the people planning to be there was formerly one of the directors of KLM during the actual merger with Air France a few years ago. One of his responsibilities during this time was defining training for cabin personnel in dealing with the cultural changes during the merger. A perfect match, in other words. I invited her to join the meeting.

The meeting went very well. The student, Marieke Harderwijk, was very professional and adhered perfectly to our agreed-upon protocol. Later in the day I received the following email from her:

Dear Mr. Salazar,

To begin with, I would like to thank you from my heart that I was able to be a part of the meeting today.

Secondly, I marvel over the fact that you, whom by all appearances seem to me to be a very modest and self-effacing man, have an enormous amount of knowledge and experience. You gave me, a simple student, just like that the chance to attend a very important meeting, sight unseen. There are few people on this earth who would have done that for someone.

I find it especially inspiring how you use your knowledge and experience also in daily life to make the world a better place, such as your project you mentioned between the church and mosque.

Thank you so much!

With warm regards,

Marieke Harderwijk

Even though one doesn’t necessarily help others for extrinsic rewards, this email was certainly a reward for me. I was surprised, and humbled, to have received it. The following Monday was Martin Luther King Day in the US, and his quote sums up my feelings,

“An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Every person must decide, at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ’What are you doing for others?’”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 11, 1957

I thank YOU, Marieke. From my heart.