Recognizing and Appreciating Excellence

I was sitting in a food court with my family enjoying my lunch when somebody caught my eye. I spent the next 15 minutes watching this individual with fascination.  This individual was not famous or rich, but just a “regular” person. But what was unique about this individual was how hard he was working and how much he looked like he was enjoying his job.

This young man’s job was to clean tables and lunch trays in the food court.  By all accounts a thankless job.  He didn’t get noticed because he worked quietly.  He didn’t get tips because he wasn’t a waiter.  He didn’t get thanked because he would clean the trays after the customers had left their tables. 

But something about him was different.                      

I watched his coworkers work as well but clearly this young man was going above and beyond his call of duty.  And best of all he was doing it all with a smile on his face.

This young man wouldn’t wait for customers to bring their trays to the garbage area, as soon as he saw people stand up from their seats, he zipped right over to them and help take their trays from them.  As soon as he got the tray he would quickly walk to the garbage area and meticulously sort the items on the tray into three categories – garbage, recycling and compost.

Over and over again this occurred. 

He was on fire.

His coworkers didn’t work with the same passion. 

He was helpful.

His coworkers didn’t seem to care about the customers.

He was happy.

His coworkers looked like they were zombies.

This young man really showcased exceptional leadership because he was able to rise above his role and do his best to make a difference to the people around him.  Imagine if we were all able to enter this zone of excellence in what we do.  What could we accomplish and whose lives could we positively impact?

After about 15 minutes of studying this individual, I knew that I had to say something to him.  I had to let him know how much I respected him for the work he was doing.  I had to let him know that someone noticed his efforts.

So I walked up to this individual and said, “I just wanted to let you know, you are doing an amazing job.  Keep up the great work because the world needs more people like you. Can I speak to your manager to let him know how good of a job you are doing?”

The look on his face was priceless.  He was stunned.  Almost as if he didn’t know if was a weirdo or if I was giving him an actual compliment.  Once he regained his composure I could see he was emotionally taken aback.

He stammered, “Thank you, but my manager is on his break right now…”

I replied, “Well, in all honestly it doesn’t matter if your manager knows or not, as long as you know that you have made a difference today, that’s all the matters.”

I walked away feeling the most amazing feeling joy.  It’s funny how giving compliments is a selfish act since you end up feeling so good inside.  Taking the time to appreciate someone takes so little effort, but could end up making the biggest difference in a person’s life.  We can all help make this world a better place by just taking a moment to acknowledge someone for something.

My 9 year old son saw this interaction from afar and asked me, “Dad, what did you say to that guy?”

My response, “I let him know that he is doing amazing work and that the work he is doing is making a difference.  Son, watch and learn.”

So there it was - me and my son having a moment in the middle of the day, in the middle of a shopping mall, in the middle of the food court.

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