A month ago I attended a weekend-long leadership conference with a couple friends. Like many such conferences, the opening session was intended to give attendees an opportunity to get to know each other. Questions were light and pretty non-threatening. At least that was the plan.
One question on the list appeared innocent enough, until one person in the group I was with asked a couple follow-up questions that took the discussion in a completely unintended direction. The original question: If you knew it was going to be your last supper – your last meal on earth – where would you have it and what would you eat?
Instantly, my mind went to some of my favorite dining establishments around the country (and around the world) – places where I have enjoyed fabulous meals. The char-crusted rib-eye at Wildfire steak house in Chicago. The burnt ends at Jack Stack Bar-B-Que in Kansas City. The old Northwoods Inn in Belmont Shore, Calif. The out-of-the-way place our host sent us to on the island of Hvar, off the coast of Croatia. The back-alley Szechwan café we found in Shanghai. The list goes on and on.
And then there are the favorites cooked at home. Who could pass up a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings? Or the perfectly marinated and smoked ribs prepared for a summer cookout? Or the pot of white chicken chili that has been simmering all day while we have been watching football?
OK, so this isn’t going to be such an easy decision.
That’s when he asked the first follow-up question: At the original last supper – where Jesus dined with his disciples – there were 12 at the table with him. For your last supper, who would you invite?
The table fell silent.
Immediate family. Extended family. Close friends. Industry friends. Old friends. Mentors. Co-workers. Employees. How could you possibly decide? Could you select just 12, or would you have trouble collecting all 12?
What would you use as criteria for making the selection? How long you’ve known them? How well you know them? How often you see them? The contribution they have made to your life?
And if that’s a criterion, when did they make that contribution? What about that second-grade teacher that helped you get adjusted to the new school? Or that high school teacher that brought out that passion for a subject that led to a career? That first boss who was so patient as you learned what it was like to work in the real world? That one friend that stuck with you through the toughest time in your life?
So this is going to be an even tougher decision.
Then he added the final twist to the question: What if you could have anyone in the world you wanted at the table with you, regardless of whether they are now dead or alive?
Not fair. Family members no longer with us. Early career mentors long gone. Public figures whose values have been inspiring. Historical characters that helped form your basis of thinking. There are far too many options, far too many directions to take this.
And then the realization hits: so many people both close by and at a distance, impact one’s life. Small acts of kindness. Great acts of courage. A few words of encouragement. Just being there when you need someone. Narrow it to 12? Not possible.
One final thought sinks in: though there may be a great many that have had an impact large and small, I’ll take my close family and close friends – those I am doing life with right now. They know me the best right now. They are having the greatest impact right now. And I’ll take that meal at home, with them. I’m just not sure yet what it is I’d eat.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, with your family and friends!
See you on the show floor!
Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 27 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house executive. He is now a partner in a trade show and event marketing firm: Reveal: Exhibiting a World of Difference. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.