“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.” ~Henry Beecher

Friday, August 20, 2010

It's How You Say it That Makes it Count

Every Wednesday morning, I commute to Boston to work for two days. I can never predict how heavy the traffic will be. Some days it takes me almost three hours to reach my destination and on others, I breeze right through in less than two hours. Either way, I have plenty of listening material so that my mind has been stretched by the time I get there. I get off exit 18, the Cambridge exit and usually have to wait to pass through several sets of lights to move forward. There’s usually lots of traffic here since there are several lanes that are merging from different exit ramps.

I’ll never forget my first day at this exit. The traffic was inching its way along and as I got closer to the first light, I noticed two men on different sides of the road. They appeared to be directing traffic. One of them, I noticed, was waving his arms and speaking with such passion and enthusiasm that I was instantly impressed. As I made my way past him, he said, “All right Connecticut, have a nice day!” And it put a huge smile on my face. The next day, driving passed again, I realized that he was collecting money for the homeless, so I made a donation. And every Wednesday and Thursday morning I would drive by, make a donation, and say hello. I eventually found out the man’s name is Gene and that he is not homeless, but that he’s been collecting money at that intersection for the homeless for 30 years. Over the last few months, I’ve been able to talk to Gene and see what a wonderful person he is. I love him dearly and this past Wednesday, when I told him so, he replied, ”It’s how you say it that makes it count.” Another big smile. He knew I meant it by the way I said it.

People can always tell when you mean what you say. Sometimes, words are just words that only take on real meaning when there is emotion to back them up. The words come from the head and the feelings from the heart and I think in many situations, it’s the emotional component of (or lack of) a phrase or word that is what we’re “hearing”. And he heard me loud and clear.

This is literally how I begin my days in Boston and sometimes I think that this is the real reason I go there–or at least that this short and sweet moment is meant to be. If it’s not, though, there is still no doubt that seeing Gene sets the stage for the rest of my day and has a ripple affect on my world. And hopefully his too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

That's Not My Job

One of my favorite things to do with the nice weather is to get in an early yoga class, then drive down the road to the local Starbuck’s to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while I sit out on their great front patio and do my work. In fact, I’m sitting there right now writing this blog.

Less than five minutes ago, a woman that I’ve talked to here before on the patio was wiping down the table she was sitting at. Not only did she wipe down her table, but she went from empty table to table and cleaned them as well and she even wiped down mine as well. I offered to do it, but she did it anyway. She said, “I went in and asked them to wipe down the tables outside, but they were so busy that I asked for the towel and said I wouldn’t mind doing it myself.“

This may seem like a little thing, but to me, it’s not small at all. How many of us would offer to help do a job that wasn’t our responsibility rather than complaining that it wasn’t getting done? Wiping down the tables took about two minutes. The tables got cleaned, we’re both happy about that, and the generous act relieved someone who couldn’t walk away from what she was doing. This type of generosity bonds people and build a sense of community. It encourages people to be kind and helpful and to make every situation more pleasant. I think about how differently this situation could have turned out had she demanded that the tables be cleaned by an employee. It would have left a dark cloud on the patio. Instead, her attitude illuminated everything. It doesn’t take acts of heroism to make this happen–the little things really are the big things. And no job is too small or too beneath us. We’re all here together and making this world a better place is everyone’s job.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What's Wrong is Sometimes Right

Most days during the week when I’m not working in Boston, I’m spending time with my Uncle who has been recuperating from an illness. I love the time we’ve been spending together because he’s a dear sweet man who’s shared so many stories of his life and his wisdom with me and we’ve had some profound and heartfelt conversations. I’m so grateful that my schedule has given me the opportunity to choose to spend the time with him.

The other day, we were having lunch together and he told me this story. There was a man whose wife would make him baked macaroni and cheese, but it was never right–it was never like his mother’s. No matter how meticulous she was in the kitchen, his wife never got it right for him. Then one day, she forgot about the macaroni and cheese in the oven and it burned. And the husband loved it because it was finally like his mother’s. His wife had finally gotten it right.

All those years growing up, the man’s mom paid little attention to the cooking, which is why she often burned the food, while his wife took care with the meals she prepared. For some, the wife was cooking the right way and burning the food was wrong. But for the husband who liked the burnt dish, it was done right.

So who’s right? Is it the husband who grew accustomed to his mom’s burnt food or his wife for not burning the food? Should the husband have been satisfied with his wife’s “under-cooked” macaroni and cheese, particularly if that’s the way she liked it? Did the wife finally get it right when she burned the macaroni and cheese, or did she do something wrong?

I believe in this situation, what’s right is what works. What’s important is not what the wife did that made her husband happy, but that it made him happy. So if making him happy meant burning the food, then burning the food was right, as long as she was happy with the outcome. If, however, she was unhappy with the outcome, then that complicates matters, and maybe she should stop making macaroni and cheese altogether. But that’s another story…

P.S. The picture above is my brother's meal from the other night of skirt steak quesadillas from Millie's on Nantucket. Definitely done right!