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‘Richest man in town’

By Staff | Sep 19, 2014

Motivational speaker V.J. Smith spoke Wednesday to audiences young and old.

On Wednesday afternoon Smith gave presentations at TGU Towner and Rugby High Schools. In the evening he gave a presentation to Heart of America Medical Center staff and area residents.

“It was very good,” said Rugby resident Don Sobolik. “The focus was mainly how simple things can make a huge difference in people’s lives.”

Simple things like caring, being grateful and appreciative were a few topics of Smith’s presentation. For “caring”, Smith recounted a tale of a front desk worker at hotel in Guthrie, Okla. The woman cared enough for her guests to walk down the halls and knock on doors during a tornado warning, telling residents to take shelter in their bathrooms.

For being grateful and appreciative, Smith not only stressed the importance of “thank you” and “you’re welcome”, but he also recounted a talk he gave to Rugby and Towner seniors earlier in the day. Smith told the students they had until the week before graduation to send thank you cards and gifts to their teachers.

“We all like to be appreciated,” Smith said. “We want to be somebody to somebody.”

Smith also recalled a story about a bus driver who gave soda and candy to the 32 kids on his route. Of the 32 kids, only five showed gratitude –and two of them were a brother and sister from a poor family who made cards of thanks.

The major topic of Smith’s presentation was a man named Marty Martinson. Martinson, a WWII veteran who died in 2004, was a cashier at a Wal-Mart who profoundly affected the lives of people in his check-out line and Smith’s life as well. Smith recalled that Martinson would ask customers how their day was going, would listen, take their money, walk around the counter and thanked them for shopping at Wal-Mart. To some children, Martinson acted as an unofficial grandfather. To others, he would provide change from his own pocket if people at his line were short. At one time, he consoled a woman before she went in for a surgical procedure.

Upon seeing and hearing of this, Smith wrote to Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters about Martinson as a model of both customer service and human compassion.

“16 years ago, if someone told me a letter would change my life I would’ve said, ‘When would I get it?’ Turns out the letter that changed my life was one I sent,” Smith said.

Smith has since written a book about Martinson and the influence he had on his life, titled, “The Richest Man in Town,” which is in its 10th printing run.

According to his website, Smith has been a national motivational speaker for 20 years. He has worked at a university in South Dakota and for a Fortune 100 company.

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