I’ve got one more thing to say about Plums, then I’ll be quiet (unless I think of something else). I admit that I went a little overboard with the thanks, but I couldn’t help myself. You see, I was really worried where Danae would wait for me for five hours while I drove from Charlotte. I had visions of her at best sitting in an uncomfortable fast food joint and at worst wandering the streets. When I found out that she was in a safe place, I was able to stop worrying and focus my attention on getting there. When she told me that Michael offered to wait with her no matter how long it took me to get there, I was beside myself with grattitude. He treated her kindly and with respect all day long. What a gentleman!
I have told this story many times this week and many have responded with statements like, “You just don’t see things like that anymore.” I do not agree. I believe that there are many decent people doing nice things for no other reason than to be gracious. Most of us miss it most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, Michael is one in a million (and so are the other million). It doesn’t diminish his kindness at all. The actual thing we don’t see much of is thanks. We expect people to treat others with respect. It’s the way things ought to be. When someone is disrespectful, we feel angry and rightly so. But the opposite does not hold true as often. When we are treated courteously and respectfully, we ignore it or dismiss it. We don’t say thank you enough. That’s what’s missing.
I think there are biological roots for why we are not as thankful as we could be. The book, On Intelligence explains from a logical standpoint how the mind works (intelligence). In short, the authors explain each of us is constantly “predicting the future”. We constantly receive sensory information from our eyes and ears and nose… We know what’s going on and we expect things to continue like they always have. Driving down the road in traffic, we expect the cars to stay in their lanes going the right direction, or change lanes slowly and hopefully with a signal. If someone darts out or passes us like a bat out of hell, we are startled because we didn’t predict that. As I write this, the ceiling fan in moving the air about in the room. Until I stopped to think about it I was unaware of the feeling of the air blowing my bald spot. I was also unaware of the sound of a plane flying overhead. My mind was used to these sensations and predicted that they would continue. Here’s the kicker… When the predictions come true, our minds simply throw the information away. It is not needed.
As humans, we can intentionally stop and pay attention to details that we would otherwise miss. A fun exercise in Improv Wisdom is to close your eyes and describe the room you are in in as much detail as possible. Then open your eyes and see what you missed or what you just got wrong. Clearly we can override our automatic intelligence systems sometimes, but we cannot do it all the time. It takes effort.
Back to thankfulness. We miss the gifts that others give us. Carl Sagan said, “In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” We are all dependent on the work and gifts from others present and past. It would be impossible to be completely present and aware of everything that we could possibly be thankful for at any one time. But it is a wonderfully eye opening experience to stop and thank someone for what they did for us… even if it was their job.
My final act of thankfulness to Plums (until I get a chance to visit them) is a letter to the editor of the Bryan County News (click to read online). Facebook messages are nice, but I’m willing to bet that the owners of Plums didn’t go into business to get nice compliments. They surely did it as a financial investment. My sincere hope is that one day soon, they are able look at their financial statements and say, “On June 19th, when we were nice to Jim Anderson’s daughter, everything changed for the better.”
P.S. I just realized today that the letter to the editor will not remain online forever, so I have captured it here…
Bryan County News (Wednesday, June 23, 2010)
Dear Editor: My daughter’s car broke down at exit 87 on her way to Charlotte, N.C. from Orlando, Fla., on Saturday.
I drove the 5 hours from Charlotte to get her and was worried about where she could wait for me. Plums Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop was where she chose to wait. Michael, the manager, was so very helpful and friendly to her. He even let her stay there after closing time until I could get there!
Since we returned home, my friends have been filling their business’ Facebook page with thanks. As satisfying as that has been, none of us live near Richmond Hill.
The Richmond Hill community needs to know what a jewel they have in Michael at Plums. He went above and beyond.
If Michael had been rude or worse, I would have taken the opportunity to blast the restaurant and the people of Richmond Hill. I want to be just as intentional about shining a light on our positive experience. Would you help me go overboard with lavishing thanks on Michael at Plums?
This was my personal blog entry asking my friends to help… http://jimazing.com/blog/2010/06/a-plum-day/