“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold — but so does a hard-boiled egg.” ~Author Unknown
As parents and teachers we often zone out when we get a moment alone. It’s normal– I do it too. I am far from perfect, lose my temper sometimes, say the wrong thing, and sometimes hover outside of myself with folded arms and ask myself, “is that REALLY the best you can do?” That ever happen to you? I’m working on it– just like everyone else.
The other day I was sitting in a café working during lunch time. A few tables away, a black woman in her 40s, sat with 7 elderly men and woman which she was clearly taking on a much anticipated outing. She was taking care of them. She wiped their mouths, wheeled them in their wheelchairs, asked them questions about their lives and facilitated conversation between the group.
It struck me. We often talk about those in care-taking positions (that may not appeal to a wide audience) as being underpaid and under-appreciated. That always bothered me. Teachers, nurses, aides—they work very hard and do such an important job. I know we’ve all said this before– but it’s still true as true can be.
I watched her now and again show such patience, concern and, perhaps most importantly, curiosity to these people in her care. And I was moved to do something. Does that sound ridiculous? That’s OK with me.
Someone once urged me, “imagine your child by your side, holding your hand and looking up at you even when s/he is not with you. What lessons would you want to teach through your actions?” That visualization really stuck with me and I call upon it often. It’s a good one, don’t you think?
I stood up and went to the cashier at the café and asked her if I could buy a gift card. The caretaker’s name was on a “reserved” marker on the table—“Michelene”– so I simply copied it down and signed it “From an admirer. You are doing great work and we appreciate it!”
When she was getting everyone ready to meet their van outside, I walked over to her and said; “This is for you. Thank you.” I don’t think she had a clue what it was or why I was giving it to her—I had sealed it so she wasn’t put in any awkward position as she received it. Then I sat down and resumed working.
While a $20 gift card is not much—certainly not life-changing—I figured that if my daughter or son were standing their with me, they would have learned something about my values. When we appreciate someone, we show it. When someone deserves some praise, we give it. When people give of themselves, we acknowledge that we’ve noticed. As parents and teachers, we need to live our values whether the children in our lives are watching us or not. In my opinion, and I would imagine you’d agree, that’s living an authentic life.
No fanfare needed, no thank you was necessary– she was being the everyday hero, not me. We make these gestures not because we feel sorry for someone or want someone to tell us how “good” we are, but rather, because that person deserves it and the gesture is part of who we are and who we hope our children become.
Have you ever done something like that on a whim? I imagine you have. It’s not about money– it can be giving time, energy, attention, praise, love, donations or thanks in any form. We’d love to hear about it!