Want to change the world? Start with the person in front of you.
I tangled with a clerk at the post office recently. Though I guess "tangled" is a bit strong, since I never even told the guy how little I appreciated him creeping on our mail. I just quit laughing at jokes that weren't funny. My big act of rebellion.
I knew enough about this gentleman to bet he considers me the problem. In a move I'm embarrassed I didn't make 10 years ago, I told another clerk how much I appreciate him.
I waited until no one else was around. No other customers in the lobby, no other clerks at the counter. And I said something like, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you this a long time ago but I just want you to know how much I appreciate the job you do here. You're really nice no matter how impatient a customer is, and you're friendly without being obnoxious. You read people. If they seem like they want to talk, you chat them up. If they're more businesslike, you help them get on their way quickly." I paused as his smile got wider. "When I'm in line I always hope I get you."
Can you imagine how happy this man is to see me now?
I know how he feels. Someone caught me being a good mom several years ago, and I still get a little puffy when I think about it. She'd been on the school bus Katie and I boarded for an hour-long ride to a kid museum, and she'd watched us the whole trip. We were waving to people inside the cars in the next lane -- sure they were jealous of our vantage point. But mostly we snuggled, tickled, and saw which one of us could out-silly the other.
"I couldn't take my eyes off the two of you," the woman told me weeks later when she spotted Katie and me on a playground. "And I kept thinking, 'That is one lucky kid.'"
You can imagine the sweet exchange we had, then. It's been more than 10 years, and I still light up whenever I see her. She caught me being a good mom, and she helped me become a better one -- because I wanted to live up to that surprise report card.
It reminded me nothing bad happens when you tell someone you appreciate him.
On a recent stop at the post office the clerk I'm fond of asked about my radio work. I was happy to tell him we're up to a hundred stations. When he handed me the credit card slip to sign he was still gushing about the show and everyone in lobby cracked up when he said, with gusto, "May I have your autograph?"
I pride myself on being as eager to pass along good things as so many other people seem eager to pass along snark. Why I hadn't expressed this appreciation ten years ago is beyond me.
And while it may have been inspired by the wrong reason, it was still the right thing to do.