A story from The Richest Man in Town

"You don't know what you've gotten yourself into," Marty said as I greeted him in the restaurant of a local grocery store. That's the place he picked for our first meeting.

Marty had been sitting in a booth drinking coffee when I arrived. I brought a notebook and pencil with me. This man had a story to tell and I felt a need to record it.

I had already been referring to Marty's customer-service qualities in my speeches, but other than the few moments I had seen him at Wal-Mart, I didn't know anything about him. Why was he so different than any other cashier I had ever met? I had no intention of writing a talk about his life, much less a book. I just wanted to know why he was so happy-and what I could learn from him.

After buying a cup of coffee I sat down with him. Idle conversation filled those next few minutes until I asked, "Are you married?"

Marty's eyes lit up. "I got married to the most beautiful girl in the world-and she still is. Her name is Mickey and you need to meet her." I told him I would like to do that.

"Kids?" I asked.

"Four," he said, "three boys and a girl."

I opened my notebook and asked Marty if it was okay to write down his answers to my questions. Marty looked at the notebook and grinned. "You want to write stuff about me?"

It was obvious he hadn't been interviewed before. I thought I'd start with some easy questions.

"When were you born?"

"August 12, 1926. I'll be seventy-four years old this August. It's hard to believe."

"So you had to go through the Great Depression. What was that like?" I asked.

He paused for a moment, looked at his hands circling the coffee cup, and let his mind take a trip back in time

. "We just lived life from day to day. My family was very hard-up at that time and I just figured everyone else was in the same boat. Most of them were."