When I moved back to Minnesota for the second time (there have been many times), I funded my volunteer internship at a nonprofit arts organization by working at the front desk of a downtown hotel. Travel can be a little discombobulating, so for 32–40 hours each week, it was my job to be nice to people and help them find things. In my tenure, I found lost watches, lost phone chargers, misplaced luggage, a couple of kids, restaurants, “that one building with the red sign,” extra towels, lost wallets, room keys and sunglasses. I also found a number of lost purses.
One afternoon, a woman arrived fairly frazzled. When I asked for a credit card “for incidental charges,” she realized she left her purse in the cab she took from the airport—but she couldn’t remember which cab company she used. I let her know it would be fine and made a few phone calls. A few minutes later, the cabbie was on his way back to the hotel, purse in-hand.
I didn’t think about it again until later that week when my manager gave me a note the woman left at the front desk when she departed. I still have it. Her words have stuck with me over the years because she helped me truly understand the powerful effect our everyday actions have on others.
I’ve typed the note below. It’s a reminder to me (and hopefully to you) to take some extra care with people this year and next. Be kind. Be respectful. Be patient if they’re a little difficult or upset. Listen. Smile. A seemingly insignificant exchange may make a big difference to someone.
To: Hotel Manager
May 12, 2005
I arrived this afternoon and inadvertently left my purse in the cab that brought me from the airport. Of course, I felt complete and utter panic.
Ashleigh greeted me and was immediately sympathetic, helpful and reassuring. She took complete charge of the situation—called around to cab companies and facilitated the speedy return of my purse and all associated belongings. I am so grateful for her gracious and effective assistance.
What she had no way of knowing is that this is my first business trip since being diagnosed with breast cancer about three weeks ago, so I came into the situation already feeling rather vulnerable. She didn’t know that—or me—but her care and concern were genuine and her tactics flawless. My appreciation extends to her manager and company for creating an environment where she was able and willing to be of great and immediate service.
Please thank her profusely.
Our interaction was probably no more than five minutes long, but it meant something to her. And her response—the note—means something to me still.
However you celebrate your holiday this year, spread a little love around to the strangers.