Last week I was driving to a friend’s house for a meeting to discuss our businesses. It was a hot summer day and I was enjoying having the sunroof open and my tunes cranked. Because I had left the house early, I decided to take the scenic route to my friend’s place, which included long windy streets with a cozy canopy of oak trees. The fresh summer air, the sunshine, and the trees carried me on this beautiful afternoon.
My quiet and leisurely drive quickly changed as I was suddenly faced with a “Road Construction Next Two Miles” sign. It became bumpy and noisy and dusty…certainly not conducive to the peaceful drive I was planning on. But that was okay. The summer sun was smiling down on me, and I was grateful to be self-employed with a flexible schedule and wearing shorts and a concert t-shirt to my meeting.
The small line of cars on the road came to a halt, as a worker stepped onto the road and held up a sign, motioning for all of us to slow down. The part of the two-sided sign that said “SLOW” was facing our direction. A few cars made it past her, and then when it came to me, the worker held up her hand and swiveled the sign around so that “STOP” was the instruction meant for me.
Noticing their efforts
So I stopped at the point where she directed me and was observing all the workers doing their jobs. There was so much going on! They were exerting so much effort in the intense heat to make the roads nicer for everyone. They were using their muscles, sweating, and obviously working hard.
“They‘re doing this for me,” I thought. Occasionally in the past, I had been guilty of seeing the road construction work as an inconvenience or as an obstacle in getting me to my destination on-time.
The woman with the tall hand-held sign was stationed in the middle of the road, right next to my car on the driver’s side. She had a long ponytail and a weathered face; you could tell that she had already endured a lot of sun this season. She was draped in the usual bright yellow vest to indicate that she was a part of the crew. I rolled down my window (which I had previously closed to keep out the dust cloud) and felt compelled to make a connection with her.
With my elbow resting on the open window frame, I leaned my head out and said “I sure appreciate the important work you do.”
You would have thought that I gave her a gift wrapped in gold. The woman’s stoic, emotionless face—exhausted from a day’s work—completely lit up. Every sun drenched wrinkle came to life as she smiled from ear to ear, showing all her teeth.
It was in her face that I realized the impact we each have in helping others feel and experience joy.
“Ma’am, I’ve been a flagger for 24 years and no one has ever told me they appreciated my work.” She continued, “The only thing I hear from people is that I’m in their way, or they’re late, or the road is a mess. And they holler at me, too. I’m just trying to do my job, ya know.”
I smiled and told her that I knew she was there to make life better for me and for the rest of us. I wanted her to feel heard and acknowledged. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in as she smiled, as if to soak in all the glory of feeling appreciated.
Our brief interaction was over just as it was time for her to turn her sign back around to the “SLOW” side. This was my cue to move along. As I drove off, she said, “You have yourself a wonderful day now.” And you know what? I did.
It’s pretty cool to think about how just a few words or a gesture or a smile just might make someone’s day. Including your own.
Whose day will you make today?
You might also like: A Sure-Fire Way To Increase Your Joy.