How the Kindness of One Person Made a Big Difference




               We wish to thank the partners of Starbucks in our area for all of their wonderful generosity and help over the

past few years.  We are especially grateful to Tommy Sherwood, the Starbucks store manager who got everything started. 

Tommy is a unique individual who took the time to learn about autism, and he ultimately made an incredible difference in

the life of a young man affected by autism.  The following excerpt about Tommy is from a terrific new book called

The Laws of Lifetime Growth . 



Excerpt from Law 10, “Always Make Your Questions Bigger Than Your Answers”:


        When you ask a genuine question and do get an answer, you have new knowledge that usually increases your

understanding.  That new knowledge can lead to other questions, and it can also lead to new ways of acting, new

perspectives, and new confidence.


Jon Singer has this great story about an unexpected by-product of his and Rebecca’s experiences together:

Rebecca likes to get up very early, earlier than her mother and her brother, so Jon, who is also an early riser, would get

up and take her to Starbucks so that they wouldn’t wake the rest of the family. Like a lot of kids with autism, Rebecca

has a tough time being in a new place.  But with practice, she was able to be there for 10, 15, and then 20 minutes.


There was a nice young manager, Tommy Sherwood, who was there early and would open the door for them.

He would say “Hi” to Rebecca, but she wouldn’t make eye contact. Eventually, Tommy went up to Jon one day and

wanted to know if he could ask him a few questions about Rebecca, because he had seen that she was struggling in the

beginning. He said, “How can I make my associates, my partners in the store, be more sensitive to anybody with special

needs?” More questions followed, about autism and about raising children, because he wanted to have kids of his own.


Jon sometimes came in not just with Rebecca but with his six-year-old son as well. Tommy and the Singers got to

know each other, and Tommy even supplied coffee for one of the visiting days at Rebecca’s school. Then one day he called,

very excited: “Jon, you won’t believe it. I hired this young adult with autism to work in the store. And he’s one of my best



Tommy went on to tell Jon that a year earlier, an agency had come to him looking to place someone, but after discussing

it, they had agreed that the working environment might not be suitable. But after meeting Rebecca, learning more about autism,

and seeing what she had accomplished with all the time and effort, he had the confidence to hire Chris when the opportunity

arose. He thanked Jon for that.


Later, Jon saw an article about Chris, the young man Tommy had hired, in the newspaper. In it, Chris was quoted as

saying that the job at Starbucks had been his first real break. They subsequently promoted him, creating a new title—café

manager—and put him in charge of rearranging and organizing the store. He made a great contribution. Jon called Tommy to

applaud him, saying, “Look what you did for this guy! He had such a tough life, and because you took the time to want to

learn about Rebecca, and learn about these things, you’re changing his life.” He cannot say enough about Tommy and

what a great person he is. And all of this happened because Tommy took the initiative to ask some genuine questions.



Excerpts from The Laws of Lifetime Growth : Always make your future bigger than your past.

By Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006, Copyright © 2006 The Strategic Coach, Inc. Used with permission.




See photos and a video clip of Chris live and in action at a 2005 Starbucks event for The Drive for Rebecca




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