I was on my way to the airport when I got a call from my cousin, Jackie. At the sight of her name on my phone I tensed up. “I hope Aunt Bebe is okay”, I thought. I
answered the phone and could not even register what she way saying. My Aunt Bebe – my person- had been admitted to an ICU in El Paso, Texas. Immediately, I called my husband and said, “I have to go to El Paso as soon as my conference is done.” He agreed. I spent a sleepless night thinking about my wonderful Aunt Bebe and carried the weight of that concern throughout the conference.
The Dementia Focused Practice conference was great – for those of you who did not attend, you should listen to the recordings. There were fantastic presentations!
On Sunday after the conference, I got up early to an email that my flight from Phoenix to El Paso was delayed. I worked on my computer in my hotel and then went to the airport – very early but I felt better being there.
I again worked ….and my flight was again delayed. I finally made it to El Paso around 4:00 that day. Jackie picked me up and treated me to my favorite local dish – Chilli Rellenos…A rare treat since the Pennsylvania Dutch of my area just do not know how to make them. Then, I finally got to see Aunt Bebe. As the nurse came in to explain the procedure, she was facing the morning – Aunt Bebe remained calm, prayerful, joking…she had such strength. Levi, a grandchild of my Aunt Bebe came in and visited. We don’t often get to see one another, so it was wonderful to catch up. Leaving that hospital room was hard… really hard….
Jackie took me to my hotel. I chose to stay at a hotel by the airport because my flight was leaving at 6:30 am. I checked in and was surprised to hear that the shuttle did not run that early. The front desk person assured me that she would order me a taxi. I was not sure if I could trust that. I went to my room and took a shower – trying to calm myself. The concern for my aunt was combining with the realities of flight and drive home the next day. The weather forecast said it was expected to snow in PA tomorrow, and I had a 4-hour drive home from the airport.
I awoke at 3:38 am – just could not sleep well so I got dressed. I made a cup of coffee. The restorative nature of coffee is a much-needed staple for me each morning. Since I was coming from the conference, I had two rolling suitcases. I put my pocketbook on my back and tried a few times to pull the suitcases while holding my coffee. I couldn’t get out the door. I tried again. I thought to myself, “Julie you are going to spill that coffee on yourself – just put it down.” But I really wanted the coffee. I tried again – no go. So, I begrudgingly threw out my coffee. I grabbed my suitcases and went downstairs.
At the front desk, I was greeted by the nicest night clerk. He was watching the luggage of another traveler waiting for an Uber to the airport. He asked me if I wanted coffee…..Yes, he offered to make me a cup of coffee. It was miraculous. I sipped that coffee all the way to the airport, as I stood in the United line, and enjoyed the rest of it before heading through security.
That coffee shifted my focus. That night clerk at the Marriott truly made my day with this kind gesture. In that moment, at the start of what I knew would be a long, hard day, that coffee was that important to me. It’s small acts of care that can make a huge difference. There is a special moment, when what you read and what you experience collide in a moment of clarity. This coffee was an example of great customer service. As I had been preparing for the conference, I had been reading two different books in which this was a central teaching – the importance of making the customers day.
“Fish!” is a book about what goes into creating an atmosphere of positivity and motivation. In the book, the protagonist is stumped by a workplace slump in her financial office. She ends up finding inspiration at the most unlikely place; Pike Place Fish Market. There she learns an inspiring management philosophy. Secret number three stood out to me: make their day. Customers should feel good about the office environment, and the easiest way to do that is to engage them. Happy people are more likely to be receptive to your suggestions and services. I know that this approach will make my firm more connected and effective.
A quote from “Love Works” by Joel Manby similarly stood out to me: “Every time you walk past someone, you have an opportunity to make their day better or make their day worse.” This is one of his seven principles of effective leadership.
Having had my day made by a simple cup of coffee, I was reminded how important this principle is for the way that I want to approach my work. People come to my office with the world on their shoulders, facing difficult decisions. By greeting them with kindness and compassion, regardless of their attitude or circumstance, my team can turn their day into a positive one.
I encourage you to engage in small acts of kindness every day. Compliment an employee, share one of these inspiring books with a friend, share a cup of coffee. It can be the tiniest way of showing care, but it can make a huge difference to that person.