By Mary Summerbell
This is a simple, straightforward “thank you” note to all the people everywhere who get up every morning and go out, or stay in, and do their jobs and keep everything going all around the world.
Most of us won’t be well known beyond our connections to family, friends and community. We won’t get the chance for dramatic acts of bravery or sacrificing our lives for others in a crucial moment of crisis. But I believe that every, every, every day most of us wake up and rise to the challenge of a new day with at least a vague intention of making a positive difference in our world beyond our own survival. Under all the numbing humdrum and monotony and sometimes agonizing boredom of daily reality, we care about ourselves and other people and our world. Sometimes, under the stress of multiple duties and responsibilities, that can bring a sense of futility to our efforts, especially with limited resources, it’s tempting to give up. But most of us plod on, even on our most difficult days.
So I say, “Hey, you! Yes, you. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I see you and I appreciate your efforts, appreciate what you do.” To all my fellow earth travelers a hearty and heartfelt, “Well done!” “Good job!” “Great job!” “Atta boy!” “Atta girl!”
These feelings of gratitude are inspired by my observations, especially when traveling, of all the people who quietly, steadily serve, each in his or her own way. On a recent trip, and on other travels in my life, I’ve noticed and made note of the people around me, some interacting in my journey, others not, but all just doing their jobs – all the hotel clerks, maids, cooks, food servers, sales associates, bus, cab, train and trolley drivers, cops, parking attendants, ticket takers, tour guides – all the keepers of historical places.
The docents, especially, many of them working as volunteers, make the journey memorable by sharing their knowledge and wisdom and enthusiasm with visitors. When I think of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of times each one has said the same things, over and over and over, of the time and effort it takes to dress in period costumes, of the extremes of weather tolerated while telling the stories of their home towns – I’m impressed.
Once, while in New York, on Liberty Island, I thanked the cashier at the gift shop. I said, “I’m here from Wisconsin and I really appreciate you being here so I can have the fun of finding my souvenirs.” To my surprise she teared up as she said, “Thanks for saying that. I really needed to hear that today. I take two buses and a ferry every morning to get here and then back again when I’m done. I have two little ones I leave with a sitter to be here. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it.” That was a moment for both of us.
Everyone likes and needs to be appreciated.
From my recent trip I will especially remember the Civil War soldier docent, the Segway guide at Gettysburg, the librarians at the Washington Masonic Temple, the lively and wise and stylish old woman who showed us the Virginia State Capitol, and the trolley driver with the sequined Stars and stripes top hat who talked at nano speed all the way. Also, the ladies taking care of breakfast at the hotels. And the young lady who took my hand as I stepped off the trolley in the rain. I know she was just doing her job of keeping from me from falling flat on my face and then suing the trolley company afterwards. But she did it so well, and with a smile, that just for a few seconds I felt like a queen, gracefully descending the steps with the help of my lovely lady in waiting.
But the one who beats them all is the desk clerk at the last hotel where we stayed. Her ethnicity was uncertain, but she had very dark skin. She had already connected with some of us in her sassy style, so we felt her a kindred soul. As we were checking out on the last day she mistook one of us for another, giving one woman the wrong bill. As the member of our group who got the wrong bill pointed out the mistake, she stood next to the woman whose bill she had received and asked, “How could you mistake me for her? We don’t resemble each other much, and I’m so much taller than she is.” To which the woman replied, “Oh, all you old white ladies look alike to me!” The ones who were there at the time cracked up laughing, and rest of us all laughed and laughed when told the story later. That’s my kind of humor. It was a trifecta of ageism, racism and sexism, each one as politically incorrect as the other, and all rolled into one it was the kind of remark, said in the wrong place or to the wrong person, that could cost you your job, or your career. But this gal knew her audience and knew we would not only not be insulted, but would see and enjoy the humor in it.
When I heard the story I thought to myself, “This is the America I’m glad to live in, where we can all laugh together like family, regardless of age, race and gender. What a trip! Thanks for the laugh!