As I stood in a long line at TJ Maxx waiting to make a few returns as per items numbers four and five on my Honey-Do list, I passed the time by observing the seven or eight customer service associates working at each register. It was the very end of the retail day and both customers and associates looked weary and quite ready to complete their transactions and head to the parking lot.
After a moment or two I found myself drawn to one associate. She was a young woman, tall and athletic looking. But it was her kind smile and easy warmth with each person she served that attracted my attention. I noticed that when customers gathered their bags and left her register they seemed a little lighter and happier than the other shoppers. That welcoming energy made me hope that I would end up at her register.
As luck would have it that’s just what happened. Sure enough she greeted me as if I was the most important person on the planet. I couldn’t help but feel she was genuinely happy to see me, though we had never met before and so I immediately seized the WOO (window of opportunity)!
Returning her warm smile I said, “You know, I’ve noticed as I waited in line how you seem to make every person who comes to your register happy and appreciated. I was hoping I’d end up with you taking care of my returns because I wanted to tell you what a wonderful representative you are for TJ Maxx. You really make a difference with your warmth and kindness.”
She was completely taken aback by this praise and almost blushing she said, “You made my day!” Her genuine humility made it crystal clear that she didn’t provide this delightful service to win praise or credit. She did it because she cared about lifting others’ spirits. Her authenticity sprang from her desire to give, not to get.
As she worked through my return receipts she told me the story of where she found her inspiration. “When I was a little girl we often stopped by Krispy Kreme on the way to school. We were almost always taken care of by the kindest lady I’ve ever met. She was even sweeter than the doughnuts! I told my mom that when I grew up I wanted to be just like my Krispy Kreme hero because she always made everyone feel so happy! I think of her almost every day when I come to work.”
As I prepared to leave I thanked her again for the joy she lit in me and others. I told her that her story made me think of my all-time favorite movie, the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. In the Frank Capra masterpiece, Jimmy Stewart as the hard-working, seemingly average guy, George Bailey, sees himself as a failure, a man who never pursued his dreams and achieved his goals. He simply doesn’t see the enormous difference he has made in many lives through his daily kindnesses, his countless thoughtful actions in service to others, and in the unshakable loyalty he demonstrates to his family, friends, and community. It took his own guardian angel, Clarence, to awaken George to the tremendous positive impact he had made and to the fact that he truly lived a wonderful life. I wanted to be sure this wonderful young woman recognized that she like her Krispy Kreme example and like George Bailey made this world a better and brighter place each day.
It is time you know you are already important. You are already significant. The WOO is already there for you in every interaction, and every seemingly average day. As Mother Teresa said so perfectly, “It’s not what we DO that makes the difference. It’s the love we put into the doing.” Each act of kindness, thoughtfulness, unselfish giving, and warmth not only elevates those around you in that moment, but ignites them to do the same. And so like the Olympic Flame, the light moves from carrier to carrier until it circles the world. Seize that next Window of Opportunity because it may be the most important one of all!