The Rebekah Principle

Date Published: 
March, 2004
Original Author: 
John Bolton
Heritage Family Cemeteries, Johnson City, Tennessee
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, March-April 2004

It's often easy to do exactly what families ask and expect you to do.
Actively looking for a way to do more is harder, but ultimately more rewarding.

Sometimes, we tend to take simple things in life for granted. Take for example, getting a drink of water. We can walk into any convenience store and find a wide variety of bottled waters, or we can simply turn on the tap and fill up a glass.

But think with me back to the days of the Old Testament. There was no running water; there were no convenience stores. While the men were fighting battles, tending then: herds or working the fields, the women had to carry a jug on their shoulders to the town well, a river or spring to get water. Many times, the women had to walk several miles to the nearest source of water and this task would take several hours.

The Old Testament tells the story of one young woman who, walking home from the town well, carrying her filled water jug on her shoulders, was approached by a stranger. He was covered with dirt and dust, leading a herd of 10 camels but she could tell he came from a good house. When he asked her for a drink of water, she not only graciously allowed him to drink but also asked, "May I please water your camels as well?"

This simple act of generosity may not seem overwhelming to us today, but in that time and place, it was no small offer. This was not like filling a dog bowl with water or handing someone a bottle of Evian; her offer involved providing water for animals that can consume 20 gallons of water at a time.

Let's do some quick camel-watering calculations:
• 10 camels at 20 gallons each = 200 gallons
• 200 gallons drawn with a 5 gallon jug = 40 trips
• 40 trips at a conservative 3 minutes per trip = 2 hours

What seemed like a simple act of generosity would take this woman more than 2 hours to fulfill.
The woman was Rebekah. The story, from Genesis 24: 12-15, describes how Abraham sent a servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. After much searching, the servant came upon a town well, where he prayed, "Now let it be the young woman to whom I say, 'Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,' and she says, 'Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink,' —let her be the one you have appointed for your servant Isaac." Rebekah, by her simple act of kindness, became the answer to a prayer, Isaac's wife and an ancestor of Jesus.

Practicing the Principle
What can this Bible story teach us? At our Heritage Family Cemetery locations, we practice the Rebekah Principle, which is simply: Go the extra mile.

We strive to go the extra mile for every family we serve and every person we encounter. Our aftercare program is a perfect example and is an element we use to set ourselves apart from our competition. Whether it's grief-care seminars or phone cards to make it easier for people to call out-of-town relatives, we offer every family a high standard of care.

It is not just family counselors who follow the Rebekah Principle. Our maintenance staff practices it by providing water during tent services on hot days, by adding extra color to the flower beds, by sodding every grave when it is closed and by re-setting the memorial at the time of the grave closing.

A key component of providing this superior level of service is simply listening to families. We train every person in our company who may have contact with a family in the importance of good listening and communication skills. This includes office personnel, maintenance staff and counselors.

Many times, we are so busy talking that we miss important information that could give us the key about how to go the extra mile for that particular family.

Providing more than the family expects reaps many rewards; I call it the shampoo effect. Remember the commercial from the early 1980s where somebody had such a great shampooing experience that they told two friends, each of whom told two friends, and so on and so on? The same thing can happen with your business, if you make it standard practice to go the extra mile.

If a customer is happy with the experience they have with your funeral home or cemetery, they will tell everyone they know, then those people will tell someone else, and so on and so on.

Major League Baseball had an ad campaign that said, "Baseball Fever-CATCH IT!" We aim to practice the Rebekah Principle every day with every family so that they will catch "Heritage Fever" and then pass it on to everyone they know.

Too many times in today's fast-paced society, we practice the opposite of the Rebekah Principle. We feel like saying to ourselves, "I'm going to do the least that is expected of me and I'm going to try to get the most out of it." This attitude should be contrary to the goals and beliefs of any company that provides a service, especially one as important as funeral service.

We should be saying, "I'll do what you asked me to do, then I'll do something more!" It is always easy to talk the talk and harder to walk the walk. Remember how Rebekah's simple act changed the world and have confidence that your efforts will not go unrewarded.

Take those basic steps in serving your families, then keep going-go the extra mile. You, your employees and your company will find the journey and the rewards fulfilling.