On May 28, 1977, the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire killed 167 people. Located seven miles south of Cincinnati on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, Beverly Hills was a very popular entertainment venue. On that night the supper club was overcrowded with the star attraction being John Davidson.
Shortly before Davidson took the stage and during the warm up act, smoke was noted under some doors by employees. A bus boy, Walter Bailey, got up on stage and took the microphone away from the two comedians who were performing in the Cabaret Room and told the packed audience that there was a fire and they needed to leave immediately.
No one moved because they thought he was part of the act or could not imagine this was serious since it was such a festive occasion. Precious seconds were lost before the audience truly assimilated the seriousness of the message. This was a listening problem. More lives were lost because people did not move quickly enough after the announcement.
Don’t allow a context affect your willingness to listen. Learn to pay attention in all kinds of environments.
Recently as I attended a speakers’ meeting, I saw at a distance a slightly built, noticeably short gentleman. My first thought was jockey. A person sitting close to me evidently saw me staring at him and said, “That is Pat Day.”
I’ve lived in Kentucky for almost four decades, and here everyone knows that Pat Day is one of the greatest jockeys of all time. He is the winner of nine Triple Crown races, including the 1992 Kentucky Derby, and the all-time leader in earnings as his races brought in nearly 294 million dollars. At the meeting break I made my way to his table and waited a few moments to introduce myself. He was very kind and patient as I told him of my admiration for his success over the years. He joked that he hoped I won when I bet on the horses he rode.
As we talked, he spoke openly about his personal life—he became a Christian in 1984 and that changed his life forever. He said that for a while he planned to leave racing and enter the seminary. After praying about the situation, however, he felt the Lord wanted him to stay and witness for him in racing circles, which he has done ever since.
I asked if he still rode horses after his retirement in 2005 and his response was, “Yes, I ride regularly and I love horses. I started riding when I was five years old and never plan to stop.” He made me feel like I was his friend, and his happiness in the life he now leads was apparent. He told about the racing circuit he traveled each year; once his daughter was born, he and his wife decided to settle in Louisville so there would be stability in family life.
As I went back to my seat, I realized this was a conversation I would remember for a long time. Whatever knowledge I gleaned in the seminar I’d come for would be nothing compared to this chance meeting with Pat Day.
Never neglect an opportunity to meet and greet people around you. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you in line at a concert or sitting by you at a meeting. You may not meet a famous person, but every person has information to share that can be informative or even inspiring as was the case with meeting Pat Day.