Randall Tallerico was terrified.
A recent college graduate, he was now a brand-new hire at Robert Solomon and Associates, a top advertising agency in Detroit.
During his first week Robert was summoned to see Kathleen Hay, the agency’s creative director. Kathleen was juggling a phone, a cigarette, and a cup of coffee, all the while issuing orders to a stream of associates entering and departing her office.
She tossed him the layout for an ad. “Here,” she said. “Schlep this to production,” then immediately turned to another associate.
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered – having no idea what she meant by “schlep.”
As Robin Koval reports in The Power of Small: “Randall retreated to his cubicle and proceeded to have a very quiet nervous breakdown. He was about to choke his first time at bat.”
Did “schlep” mean to Xerox something? Or to reduce it? He checked his marketing books. Nothing. Then his advertising books. “Schlep” was nowhere to be found. Could he search for it online, perhaps? Maybe if he had a time machine – Randall’s crisis was happening years before the debut of Google.
Two hours later Randall realized he had no choice but to admit to his intimidating supervisor that he had no idea what to do.
He returned to Kathleen’s office, which was still bustling with activity, and cleared his throat. “Excuse me, ma’am.” Nobody heard him. “Ma’am?” Koval describes what happened next:
“’What do you want, kid?’ the creative director barked when she finally noticed the young man hovering nervously in front of her. ‘I – I – I don’t know what it to means to schlep.’”
Kathleen Hay began to laugh so hard she had to put down her coffee. She dialed Robert Solomon – the big boss – and told him to come to her office. Tallerico looked for a place to hide. Everyone in the agency, from the CEO to the parking lot attendant, was going to find out he was an idiot.
Solomon came into the room. “The new kid doesn’t know what ‘schlep’ means,” Hay said. The boss shook with laughter. “’Kid,’ said Kathleen, at long last. ‘It’s Yiddish [the language of many European Jews]. It means to bring. Just bring it to production.’”
Then she said something wonderful: “And don’t worry, you’re gonna do great here. It’s good to speak up when you don’t know the answer.”
It’s good to speak up when you don’t know the answer.
Randall Tallerico’s humility turned an apparent nightmare into what Koval calls “the moment that forever endeared him to his bosses.” And yes, he did have a great career at Robert Solomon and Associates.
A Chinese proverb says it best: “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes. He who does not remains a fool forever.”
Christians are People of the Book. The Bible is a vast library of history, poetry, biography, and ethics. It is our sourcebook for God’s enduring word to humanity. But (to put it gently) a great number of those who profess to follow Jesus are biblically illiterate.
Is this because of ignorance, apathy, amnesia, poor teaching, or laziness? All of the above.
What should we do?
It’s never too late to admit that you don’t have all the answers and need some help understanding Scripture.
So, dump your pride. Put up your hand. Ask for help.
Then schlep with joyful abandon.
Randall Tallerico was terrified.