It’s the Little Things

by dbrowe

My very first job was as a checker at a Brookshire Brothers grocery store. For months, I stood behind that green counter scanning everything from creamed corn to frozen turkeys over and over and over again. Then I would wait an eternity for little old ladies to scribble out their checks — a process that had me wanting to let them borrow my debit card to save us both the misery.

I remember one elderly man who came through my line just before Thanksgiving, which is the absolute worst time in any grocery store employee’s miserable experience. It had been a long day, but he made it all better in a split second when he looked at me as I handed him his receipt and said, “Thank you, Daniel. Have a good day.”

It took me by surprise at first. I’m not even sure I replied to him as I stood there wondering how he knew me. Had my grandmother sent him in there to keep an eye on me? She would try to be sneaky like that, I thought. And then it hit me.

He read my nametag.

That dumb little nametag I had worn for months because it was required. It was just an annoyance to me. Never once had anyone paid any attention to it, and I had never paid attention to anyone else’s — waiter, clerk, or fast food employee. But that all changed the day that old man called me by my name. There was just something welcoming and reassuring about it.

Now, I try hard to notice a person’s nametag and thank them by name everywhere I go — unless I’m too afraid of the awkward moment that might ensue if I butcher the pronunciation. The reactions you get are interesting. Most folks pause for a second, give a little smile, and then say thank you. Others pretend like they don’t notice — probably because they are a bit weirded out. But no matter their physical reaction, I know it made a little difference for the better because I’ve been there, and it did for me.

It’s the little things we do that add up to make the big difference. Yesterday, Mark Altrogge had a great post about those little opportunities. (You should check it out.)

And those opportunities to make a real difference in someone else’s life exist online just as they do offline. Sometimes this whole social media thing can get very impersonal as we clamor and shout to be heard or write overly-critical posts simply to draw hits. But there is a better way.

Try leaving a small thank you comment on a blog where you can tell someone invested time and shared a part of their life that might be uncomfortable to talk about. Shoot someone an encouraging message on Facebook that’s not related to work or them attending your event. Use Twitter as a way to publicly honor someone instead of begging for a retweet.

What is one of those little things you do, whether on- or offline, to make another’s day a little better? What has someone done for you lately? Share it below.