Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

Every Christmas I think about what a Franciscan Brother a told me a long time ago. In truth, it was what he showed me, both via physical and spiritual demonstration. I was performing a certain community service when he approached me smiling and said, “Put your hands together and make a cup with your palms.” So I did. He continued: “Now imagine your cup filled up by water. Now separate your hands.” I did that as well. And then he asked, “What happened to the water, and how can you retrieve it?”

“I can’t get it back,” I responded.

He slowly summarized: “The water in your palms is like your reputation. You need to treat it with the utmost care because when you let it fall there is no way to pick it up.”

“OK,” I said, “but why are you telling me that now? I am here performing a service.”

“Because there is a deeper lesson, and something even more important than your reputation, and that is your character,” he said.  The Franciscan went on: “Your reputation is important and you must guard it, but it is secondary to your character. Everyone sees your reputation; no one sees your character.”

I have thought a lot about that over the years, the idea that the things people see are important, but the things people do not see hold even greater meaning.

Regardless of whether Christmas holds any spiritual meaning for you, the following words from Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew add to this discussion:

 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”

Moving on to present day, every year my family asks me what I want for Christmas and I literally say: “Nothing; I have everything I need.”  I have clothes, shoes, ties and all the other items someone would want to purchase.  When asked again and again, I usually just settle for a college shirt or hat; at least I know I will wear those things. 

As I think about Christmas, I am very fortunate to have everything I need; others do not.  In our positions as business leaders, we have an opportunity to play Santa Claus. I know many leaders who do this as part of their life’s commitments and without any notoriety.  Others that I run across during the year list everything they say they are going to do, not so subtly implying that they are selfless, wonderful individuals.

I think the message in all of this is that a leader in the community should keep reputation in mind, but more importantly, uphold character by working to improve lives without fanfare. At Sumus, we will certainly do our best to uphold this message during the 2016 Holiday Season and beyond. We sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Jim Baker

Jim Baker

Sumus was founded by Jim Baker, an entrepreneur with 27 years’ experience bootstrapping and growing his business organically and through acquisition, to share his experience by providing advisory services around Board representation, Organization and Branding Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions, Value enhancement and Exit strategy.