Over the holidays, I visited my parents in southwest Florida. My mother and I were out the Sunday before Christmas and stopped for lunch at one of my favorite places. It was pretty busy, so we opted to sit at the bar since we could be seated there right away.
It turned out to be a great choice, and it was all because of the woman who was waiting on the folks at the bar. She had bright red hair and a personality to match. I really wouldn’t have thought that refilling a Diet Coke or taking an order could be so exciting, but it was obvious that she was having a fabulous time. There was always a big smile on her face and it was clear that she was genuinely happy to be meeting and interacting with her customers.
Eventually, I looked at my mother and said, “Do you get the feeling she is having more fun than anyone in this place?” “Yup,” she replied. And as I sat there watching this human ball of energy moving back and forth from food to drink to taking orders, a plan started to form.
When we were finishing up and settling the bill, I asked my mom if she’d caught a name. (The woman’s name tag was on her collar, so unless you were at just the right angle, you couldn’t read it.) “No,” Mom said, “but you could ask.”
I did. “I’m Jeanine. Are you gonna come back and see me again?”
I smiled and said, “We might! You’ve been having so much fun that we had more fun, too.”
“Well, I love what I do!
“We could tell,” I said. “A little elf may let someone know that.”
The look on her face was priceless. “Aww, thank you! That’s so sweet!”
When I got home I called up the restaurant’s website and filled out their comment form, pointing out that Jeanine’s personality and love for what she does made a huge difference to our experience and that she was a real asset to their staff. There was a box to check if you wanted to hear back from them, and since this is a large corporate chain (one of the few I make an exception for!), I decided that, yes, I wanted to hear from them so I’d know that they paid attention.
I could go on here about how your attitude makes a huge difference in how you see the world (and in what you get back from it), but that’s not why I’m telling you this story. We’ve all heard that many times, and I doubt that it needs to be repeated.
No, I’m telling you this story because the email was only part of my plan. Not only did I want to tell The Powers That Be what a great employee they had, I wanted to turn it into a practice. I felt fantastic after I sent my “little elf” email, like I knew I would before I ever left the restaurant, and wanted to do it again.
Now, I’m not talking about turning myself into a secret restaurant employee critic. I’m talking about looking for people in my daily life who make things better, and then saying so, to whoever is most appropriate to the occasion.
Why do I want to do this? For the same reason I checked that box on the form: it’s easy to focus on the negative feedback and ignore the positive. I imagined the person on the other end of that form getting my message and saying, “Yeah, yeah, Jeanine’s awesome. Whatever. This other guy’s complaining about Doug the waiter spilling soda on him, so now I have to fix it, which is way more important…”
Requesting a reply may not have done anything immediate or direct for Jeanine, but it did make someone think about what I’d said for at least a minute or two, which is probably a minute or two more than most of us reflect on the positive in our day.
It also feels really good to do something for someone else, especially when they don’t know about it, or who you are (which takes away any potential feeling or judgment of doing something just to impress someone). It’s a win-win for everyone. So why not turn it into a practice? I posted a while back on the benefits of seeking joy, but I am thinking now of actively creating it.
Rather than setting the typical New Year’s resolution this year, I’m instead setting myself on a quest to find a person or group to celebrate each week. Hypothetical bonus points are available if I can report that awesome person or group to someone who really needs to know how much they’re appreciated—a boss, a civic leader, a parent…or directly telling the impressive, awesome person him/herself if that’s what feels right.
This kind of quest feels much more powerful to me than “I resolve to be happier this year.” Questing for the positive is a conscious choice that just might shift my outlook for good. (In fact, since I am starting to go through A Course in Miracles daily this year, too, it seems to me that this practice might just bring me closer to a miracle or two by the course’s definition.) And you know…that feels like the sort of practice that should be shared.
I would love for you to come on this quest with me. In fact, I’ve created a Facebook group where we can share the awesome, cool people and groups we come across each week. I suspect that it will grow organically in scope and structure as we see how this quest goes and discover more about ourselves and the process—and I know it will help us all remember what we’re looking for and add some awesome group mojo. You can find the group here—it’s private to prevent spam/trolling, so just send me a request to join!
Come create some joy with me in 2013. Let’s make it our best year yet!