"I hope your box is empty!"
It was on the sixteenth day of the 12th month celebrating his 75th birthday when he decided it was time.
Having been happily married, raising three boys, and continuing with great success, the family business handed down from generations before him, this now frail man had to make a decision.
His health had not been good over the past few years and the stress of keeping the business on course was beginning to wear on him.
The challenge was in deciding which one of his sons would take his place.
Each boy had the experience. Each one was capable of helping it grow in the future.
But each had different personal values.
As they gathered together to celebrate Father's birthday, he quietly pulled them aside from the rest of the family to announce his retirement.
"Father, I can't imagine a day without you as the head of the business," one said.
"We are sure to falter without you, but you deserve some rest," another said.
"You are this company," the last chimed in.
Then there was an uneasy silence. Surely the question playing on their minds was "who would take his place?"
The old man turned and walked toward the corner of the room where there were three boxes.
"Come, each of you take one of these boxes. They are of equal size. By the first day of the new year when we return here to celebrate, I want each of you to bring your box filled
with what you believe to be the most valuable assets of this business. Based on your choices, I will decide who will take over as the chairman," father said.
There was much grumbling, confusion and discussion as father left the room.
During the next 15 days the families and employees could sense a strong competitive spirit between the boys. One carried the box nearly everywhere he went. Another ran from department to department asking for records and inventories. The third simply
left the box at his desk.
It was January 1st and the family had once again gathered to celebrate.
Right after dinner father called the boys aside.
"Well, it is time. Please share with me what you have placed in your box," father said.
The first son, eager to outdo the others, jumped to his feet and began sharing.
From the box he pulled the business ledger, saying "This father, is the true measure of our success. There is no greater representation than the bottom line."
"Simple and direct," father said.
Pointing to the second son, he asked for him to share.
"Where is your box?" father asked.
"It is outside on the back of truck. The box you gave me was much too small. I have ten of our employees out there ready to bring in each of the items I have gathered."
Father walked to the window and from that distance could see his son had gathered many of his own personal possessions; a boat hitched to the back, collections of rare art, antiques and what appeared to be two uniformed guards standing next to a large box.
"What is in the box?" fathered asked.
"My wife's jewels," the son replied. "Shall I order them to bring them in?"
"No! I have seen enough," father said.
With a deep sigh and tone of sadness, he said to the last son, "What valuables do you have to share?"
The son rose to his feet and handed his father the box.
The old man looked inside and with great shock and surprise looked up at his son.
"It's empty!" father said. "Are you telling me that you have found nothing of value in the family business?"
"To the contrary," he said. "What I found most valuable I could not place in a box, on the back of a thousand trucks, or scribbled on the bottom line of a ledger."
Father's face lit up as he returned to his chair.
"How does one measure the value of commitment, quality, honesty, and trustworthiness?
What size box would hold the loyalty of our employees and customers?
Would the charities we supported through the years fit into the largest trucks in our fleet?
How big of an auditorium would I need to gather the families of our coworkers who have benefited from our generous pay and health plan?
Where would I place the local companies we have committed to deal with so that the community we live in stays strong?
Finally, father, the most valuable possessions I personally hold are the love of you and mother, family values, your wisdom, compassion and love of God. Look again inside that box. They are not there. The result of all of that is here standing before you."
It was clear what decision was made that day.
There will come a time when each of us will be asked by our Father to share what we value most.
I hope your box is empty.
Bob Perks is an inspirational author and speaker. Bob's new book I Wish You Enough has been published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. A collection of stories based on his Eight Wishes expressed below. Available through your favorite bookstore or online. Visit www.BobPerks.com