Un Minuto con…

A Lesson from a Shepherd Boy

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

Sheep 2

While my children were growing up, they had to “endure” a yearly trip to Italy to visit their grandparents and other family members. Often, they complained that their friends were having much more fun in summer camps in the Poconos than they were while visiting the old country.

I’m happy to report that now, on special occasions, I receive many Hallmark cards thanking me for those fabulous experiences they had in Italy. They are both very thankful for those trips abroad that gave them so much insight and understanding of our multicultural society.

I particularly recall the summer of 1985, when I postponed my yearly trip a couple of weeks in order to attend a Dale Carnegie course on “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The course was given by a friend of mine who assured me that it would do me a lot of good in my career, as well as for my personal life.

One lesson learned was that, by remembering a person’s name, my chances of winning over new friends or business customers improved tremendously. During the course, we were put through several drills in which we mastered the skill of remembering names of many individuals by associating unique physical features of the person and to his/her name. It was quite revealing.

The day after the course ended, my family was off on our yearly Italian pilgrimage.
A few days later, I was on a hilltop in Calabria, with my sons enjoying the cool summer breeze overlooking the beautiful landscapes of Southern Italy. Not too far away, I saw a young shepherd boy, around the same age of my sons, tending to his flock, and I wondered why he was alone and quite confident of his responsibilities. I wanted my sons to understand what responsibility meant, so we went over and asked the young lad a question or two.

His name was Antonio. I asked him what it meant to be a shepherd, and he replied that it was the best job ever to fully understand and respect nature and appreciate each sheep’s unique character. “Well,” I said. “How many sheep do you have?” He replied “97.” How do you know there are 97 and not 98? His answer was, “A good shepherd always knows exactly the number of sheep he has in his flock and he gives each one a particular name.”

Sheep 1

Amazed at his answer, I then asked, “How do you remember each name?” And Antonio replied, “Caro signore! I look at the face of each sheep and if its face has a special feature, I call it by that characteristic.”

I pointed out to one and said, “What is the name of this one?”

“Bianchina,” he replied. “Its face is all white therefore I call it Bianchina.” The next one was named Piccolo because it was rather small and so on.

I was very impressed and realized that I had paid over $1,000 for a Dale Carnegie course in New York, where if I had come to an Italian shepherd boy it would have the same lesson, totally free.

That summer, we all learned an excellent lesson.


Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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