Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Guy in the Wheelchair ...

The smell of smoke was everywhere. I was in a very good mood, top of the world. Great news will do that. We were heading up Yonge Street and passing an area full of confusion. There were police managing the situation and firemen working the scene. There had been a huge fire there a few days ago and all sorts of investigations are going on regarding the blaze. When it first happened, two firemen had fallen into the building and had been rescued in a dramatic fashion.

Several people had stopped to watch, predictably most were taking pictures on their cell phones - it's always more dramatic to see an image on a tiny phone screen rather than in front of your eyes. One of the fireman noticed me going by in my wheelchair and as I knew I'd caught his eye, I called out, 'You guys do a great job!' He grinned and gave me a big thumbs up. Several people at that point broke into applause and he took a big mock bow. We all laughed.

I thought about that moment a lot since it happened. I'd planned an entirely different blog for today but, as I thought about it, this moment grew in my mind to the point that I couldn't ignore it. What struck me was that all those people watching or taking photographs were probably all thinking 'You guys do a great job!' Their applause showed agreement with the statement. Yet none had spoken. The moment could have passed with everyone thinking something positive and affirming but no one saying it. How sad is that.

It must be admitted, because this sounds like I'm tooting my own horn because I did speak up, that I only did so because I as in an ebullient mood. I was fair to brimming with feeling upbeat and positive about the world. On an ordinary day, or more precisely on 999 days out of 1000, I would have thought but not said.

I wonder, how many nice thoughts about people stop at the thinking? How many compliments die on people's lips. How many encouragements are lost, how much praise dies on the vine? I'm guessing a lot.

We live in a world where negativity freely expresses itself. Where nasty sentiments are tossed without care. Where people mistake aggression for assertion, where vulgarity masks itself as wit. We live in a world where there is more risk in saying 'good job' than 'fXXX off'. Something has gone very wrong.

I wish you could have seen the grin on the fireman's face. I wish you could have seen the lovely smiles on the faces of those who applauded the work of folks who walk on ice to fight a fire. I wish ...

I wish I could consistently have the courage to speak up and be kindly when kind thoughts come to mind.

I wish I could make a habit of kindness and become an addict to expressing appreciation.

Somehow I bet when firefighter guy got home he told a story about his day. What with fires and collapsing buildings, with danger and with risk, he begins the story of his day something like this ... 'there was a big guy in a wheelchair, and you'll never guess ...'

Not only did I have a good day today, I get to be part of a good story too.

13 comments:

Patient C said...

This, oh so very much! I have a rule that I am trying to share with my family: you should be as quick to compliment as you are to complain. Sometimes folks appreciate it, sometimes they think I am kidding or making fun (which is odd), but mostly the results are positive and everybody involved feels a little better about their day.

Spinningfishwife said...

I did a challenge once (it was on someone's blog) which was to make one nice comment a day to a friend or stranger, for a month. It was harder than you might think...not finding the opportunities, which were readily availible, but to get over the self conciousness of making the commet.The response was excellent though!

Louna said...

I love this post. I really should pain attention to this more... it's so easy to make someone's day!

Anonymous said...

Dave,

I've been reading your blog for a very long time and have not had the courage to comment. I decided to today. I was your supervisor many years ago. Its funny now that you've gone on to become quite famous my current staff really don't believe me when I tell them that you once reported to me. You're post today really doesn't surprise me as you're attitude then was almost entirely positive. I feel guilty when I think of the past with you working for me because I never once told you that you brought such a positive spirit into work. The client's loved you and so did most of the staff, the one's that weren't jealous of you at least. I think I was a bit jealous myself because you seemed to have such a natural way with the clients, never condecsending or demanding. I found that I spent more time finding fault and creating problems where there were none. But you were so quick to apologize and I could see you straining to do better when you were already doing well. There were a thousand times I should have thanked you ro given you proper acknowledgement. This one time won't make up for it, but let me just say. It was an honour to work with you, before you were famous. I for one know that you come by your reputation honestly. You really are a truly decent guy. I don't want to sign my name but will you remember this? You were there the day my music died.

Kristin said...

That is a lesson I try and continually remind myself of. Good for you for speaking up.

Natasha said...

Thank you again. I'm so very glad I found your blog.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Music Died, Have been out all day and got back only moments ago. Boy do you have me curious. It was fun though because I went through all the supervisors I've ever had, there have been surprisingly few, and I think I know who you are. I'd love it if you could give me a call at Vita ... I'm extension 238 ... for a chat. If you are who I think you are I was talking to someone about you the other day. If you are someone different, I'd be curious as to the reference. I can figure that reference for only one person of all of them. So. Call.

Melissa M said...

It's so strange to me that it is hard to compliment others, or just offer words of encouragement. And yet I'm guilty of this too. I will make a point of saying all the nice things I think but never say.

Anonymous said...

Love this post!! Yes we should be so much quicker to be kind to each other. Remember it takes at least 5 kind words to undo (is that the right term?) one unkind word. So we have a lot of kindness to spread around!! Dave I really hope that 'the day the music died' gets in touch with you, that sounds like it would be a happy reunion.

Anonymous said...

I complimented a salesclerk the other day for putting the caller on hold and helping me, the customer standing in front of her, first. She's not fighting fires, but simple good service also deserves a kind word or two.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,

I once had an experience at work where I was waiting for the last Wheeltrans of the day to go home and was running wuite late. When the driver came, she could not have been more caring about the member she was taking home. Even though this member could not verbalize a response, she asked how his day was, explained what she was doing and made very nice small talk. She didn't realize that I was watching.

I told her how awesome I thought it was that she'd take some time out of her day to be friendly and kind to someone she didn't even know, and that even though she was running late and had probably had a frustrating day she was still upbeat and working her hardest to please someone, even if they couldn't reciprocate.

Her attention was not directed at me and her actions had nothing to do with me (as a staff), but it made my heart glad to see this.

Since that day, I've taken it as a daily goal to pass on at least one act of kindness.

~Elizabeth

Kasie said...

Making people feel good by expressing gratitude and saying kind things is addicting. Then, it starts to come naturally and you just do it all the time. Then people begin to say kind things to you and about you, because you are kind. And, that becomes addicting. Compassion and kindness become the trends of the day, wiping out yesterdays trends of sarcasm and judgment. And, the world becomes a better place.

Simple, right?

Thank you Dave, for all you do! You are incredible!

wheelchairs said...

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