Tire dealers should respond to the terrorist attacks on New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., with compassionate leadership and positive, neighborly gestures.
This may require some righteous but unpopular actions.
American history illustrates that two of the strongest characteristics of our people are compassion and fair-mindedness. Now is the time for owners and managers to perpetuate that tradition in word and deed. It's easy to become consumed by hatred right now. But hatred only breeds divisiveness. A divided, suspicious and hateful America is one that plays into the hands of our enemies.
First of all, show an American brand of leadership to your crew and community by seizing opportunities to help victims and their families. For instance, encourage your employees to donate blood. Telephone the nearest hospital or blood center to find out how you can contribute in any way to a blood drive. Publicize blood drives on your dealership's outside signage, window posters and/or bay banners.
Another way to lead and show compassion is by offering to match any donations your workers make to the American Red Cross or other support groups. Consider soliciting donations for victims' families. Maybe you could cooperate with the American Red Cross or local civic groups in some way.
Or you could provide transportation for church-organized or civic-group volunteers who are headed to New York or Washington. All you have to do is ask-these people are a phone call away.
Information and toll-free telephone numbers for many support groups are posted in newspapers as well as on the Internet.
What's more, keep your ears and eyes open in the near future for requests for other kinds of support for victims' families. For example, we can only guess how many children were orphaned by these tragedies. Perhaps clothing or toy drives will become appropriate and your dealership's locations can serve as collection centers. Regardless, step forward and put your company behind these efforts any way you can.
If a grocery store in the Midwest can collect more than $100,000 with an impromptu collection for victims' relief, surely your business can make some kind of contribution.
Second, exercise leadership and compassion by discouraging racism of all forms.
Make it clear to your staff in word and memo that you will not tolerate trash-mouth about ethnic groups or religions. If this is a land where everyone of every color and creed gets a fair shake, then practice that philosophy at work. This stance may seem like an unpopular one, but it's the right one and a truly American one.
Part of this stance should be forbidding workers from posting vile messages anywhere in the dealership-from the technicians' locker area to the front windows. To me, the Sept. 11 tragedies don't give any of us license to brandish window banners, outside signage or bumper stickers with despicable themes and/or disparaging messages.
If you're undecided about an outside message, how about a proud display of Old Glory? For that matter, you could give a little American flag to each customer. Urge them to display it on their desks, at their workstations or in a flower box at home.
Or could you post some sincere but positive sentiment in your banner or front signage? You could say something like, ``Pray for the NY/D.C. Bombing Victims'' or ``Honor Our Fallen Neighbors in NY/D.C.''
Finally, discourage racism and promote ``community'' by extending a hand of friendship to your neighbors of Arabic or Middle Eastern ancestry. The president, the mayor of New York and prominent congressmen are condemning harassment of these proud but embarrassed people. You do likewise and at least offer them a civil ``Howdy, neighbor!''
Remember that these people are practicing the pursuit of freedom and happiness, just like you and me. They don't represent the small fraction of fanatics who walked on those four airplanes.
It's time for all of us to show what has, through history, made our country great.