The Word is “Compassion”…

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know I missed another week. However, in my defense, I told all of you at the beginning of the year that I would “try” to continue with the weekly blog. Most weeks I am able to make it, but some weeks don’t have one spare moment in them. I’m sure you know what I mean…Never the less, I’m back this week!! We’ve been talking about the “powers” that lie within each of us, and this week’s blog will continue with that theme…The “power” this week is compassion.

Most of you know that my parents turned the house that we grew up in as children, into a personal care home for older adults with mental challenges. Back in the day, these individuals were called “retarded.” They KNEW that word, and no matter how many times they heard themselves being called that awful name, it still hurt each time. You could see it on their faces.

For almost thirty years my parents became a second “Mom and Dad” to a number of precious, older women. Their ages ranged from 40-65. Most had the comprehension (and actions) of an eight-year old child. My parents could not have loved them any more than if they had been their “own” children. For most of those women, living with Mother and Daddy was truly the first caring “home” they had ever experienced. Mother became “Mama Jo,” and my father was simply “Daddy” to all of them. One of their favorite pastimes was getting Mother to recount how she “picked” them from the State School to come and live with her and Daddy. My Mother would always get a big smile on her face, and really begin to tell the story of each one – what had been so special about them…why she wanted them to come and live with her. Watching their faces as she told each individual story always brought tears to my eyes…their faces holding such looks of love, amazement, and wonder…and disbelief that someone would want them enough to choose them for a family…these “retards.” Oh, how it hurt my Mother to the core when she would hear someone call them that name, or dismiss them derisively. She would always turn to me in tears and say, “They are human beings just like you and me. They just need a little more help.” I watched her on numerous occasions come to their defense, with all the outrage and anger that only a good southern “Steel Magnolia” can get away with.

One day she asked me to create a sign that she wanted to hang in the house. This is what the sign said: The word is COMPASSION. She could never understand why other people could not FEEL for these women who she loved so deeply. This “compassion” was passed on to each of us children. There’s not a one of us who can turn our heads away from someone in need. We DO feel…and our hearts are tender and sensitive to the plights of others. We HAVE to take action! We HAVE to help! We HAVE to care! You see, we don’t know any other way…

When did we get so hard on the inside? When did others not matter to us? When did we begin to close our windows and doors, and our hearts, and not get involved? Everyone has a story…you may never know all the details. You may never know the horror and sorrow they may endure every moment of their lives. What would it hurt if just a few of us actually cared, and took action? I have that power! You have that power! What don’t we use it more often? Why don’t we show more compassion? That’s what I am going to try and do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

“Sticks and stones…”

As kids, we all learned those old “comebacks” to win an argument: “Oh yeah? Well, your Mama…” “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!” “I know you are, what am I?” And of course, the best one, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me!” As we grew older, we learned very quickly that words could indeed harm us. In his book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” Robert Fulghum gave us a new quote regarding “sticks and stones.” He writes, “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts.” I would like to add to that statement. Words will also break our spirit. I am sure you have guessed by now that the “power” for this week is WORDS.

At conferences, I am often asked to present a session entitled, “They’re ONLY Words…” In that presentation I tell of a little girl in the second grade. She was very tiny for her age, and had a “clubfoot.” (Also called congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV), a congenital deformity involving one foot or both. The affected foot appears to have been rotated internally at the ankle. Without treatment, people with club feet often appear to walk on their ankles or on the sides of their feet.) In addition to this deformity, she had a “cauliflower ear” and could not hear very well with that ear. (Cauliflower ear is a condition that occurs when the external portion of the ear suffers a blow, blood clot or other collection of fluid under the perichondrium. As a result, the outer ear becomes permanently swollen and deformed, resembling a cauliflower.) I have told you the exact definition and descriptions of those two deformities because I want you to get a good visual image of this small child. This was quite a few years ago, before we had all of the latest technology to test someone’s hearing. The way they tested a child’s hearing in school went something like this: the teacher would call up one child at a time, whisper a phrase into their ear, and ask them to repeat the phrase they heard…all conducted in front of the entire class. The little girl remembered last year when this was done…how she was embarrassed and humiliated to have to go before the class, dragging her little foot, and hoping against hope that she could hear the phrase well enough to repeat it. I can just picture her…her heart pounding so loudly in that little chest that you would think it might explode…trying to remember to walk as straight as possible, not limp or drag her foot…and praying so hard that she might actually hear what the teacher would whisper in her ear. (I can never tell this story without tears springing to my eyes. I am such a visual person, and I can see this little girl in minute detail every time I recount this event. Even now, I am writing this with tears in my eyes.) So, it was time for her to walk up to the teacher. She took a little longer getting there than the rest of the children. As she was walking to the front of the class, she heard the comments: “retard,” “gimp,” “not right in the head…” Oh yes, she heard all of that!! She finally reached the teacher, turned her “good” ear to her, and tried to hide the tears already forming in her eyes. The teacher leaned down, scooped the child as closely in her arms as possible, and whispered tenderly to her, “I wish you were MY child!”  And right there, in that moment, those words made all the difference in the world to that child. Just from those few words, she discovered that she had worth and value; that someone wanted her…defects and all. Those words gave her hope!

I hear what people say to their children. I hear what people say to the people they supposedly love. I hear what people say to, and about, the people they work with. I hear what neighbors say about other neighbors. I hear what husbands and wives say to each other. I hear what children say to their parents. And my heart breaks over and over again. When did we become so cruel? When did we become so uncaring? Once a word is spoken, you can never take it back. There are no “do-overs.” You can never really correct it. Oh, you can apologize, but the memory, and that you said it in the first place, will ALWAYS be remembered. Words can absolutely destroy a person. Words can lift and encourage one’s  heart and spirit.

I always think that if this was the last time I saw a person, what words would I have left them with? Would the words be fault-finding, cruel, disrespectful, harmful, and destructive; or would the words be loving, comforting, encouraging? I want my words to be tender to the heart and soul…loving in every way. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

That’s Excellent….!!!

I had a friend who lost her Father unexpectedly this past week. Tuesday evening I attended his “celebration” service. There were two prevailing themes that were evident as family and friends remembered her father. One was his faith in, and love for, God. The other was that he had lived a life of “excellence.” Since I have been talking about our individual “powers” in my last few blogs, and I’ve already covered the power of “faith,” we will continue this week with the power of EXCELLENCE!

As a speaker, one of my goals is to consistently score the highest possible mark on conference evaluations. In other words, I want to score “excellent” on each one. I will be honest, I would still receive payment for my services, even if I got “good,” “fair,” or “poor.” I probably would not be asked to come back for a repeat performance, but I would get paid for the job that I had done. And that would be enough for me, if I were only in it for the money. However, we all know, I don’t do what I do for the money. It sure helps though, because I like to eat just as well as the next person…Fortunately, because I work HARD to accomplish this, I DO receive those excellent scores. In 35 years, I can only remember one bad evaluation, and it was REALLY bad…. The individual wrote (anonymously, of course) that I was “harsh, rude, and mean.” It just took my breath away! I went back over every second of my presentation, trying to figure out what I had said or done to cause this person to think those horrible things. After much self-analysis, I came to the conclusion that this person simply had to have been on drugs that day! There was no other reasonable explanation! 

So how do we get to a point of excellence, to where that pursuit becomes second nature to us? I think that it is a skill that can be learned. Being the best that you can be is a concept that we can teach children (and ourselves). My parents and grandparents convinced me at an early age that I could do anything that I set my mind to, and that I could accomplish anything in life, if I worked hard to attain the goals that I had established for myself. I believed them, took the message to heart, and never looked back! So you need the confidence in yourself and your abilities, and the motivation and enthusiasm to establish goals and work to accomplish them. You also need to obtain as much “book” and experiential knowledge as you can get!

When my business partner and I began our company (providing continuing education to healthcare professionals), we were not known in some states. So, we had to “cultivate” a following in those new states. We went to one state for the first time, and ONE person showed up for our training. Most companies would have cancelled that training, but we felt that you had to start somewhere! (And now we get to that “pursuit of excellence” skill…) I walked in, looked at the one person, smiled brightly, and said, “You are about to receive the best, one to one training that you will ever get in your life! You will have my undivided attention, can ask any question you want, we will go at your own personal pace, and we can even go off-topic if you like. It is all up to you. I am at your service!” I went above and beyond what she had been expecting, had there been a room full of participants. The next time we conducted a seminar in that state, we had a FULL meeting room!

It does not matter what task is at hand. Do it with excellence! In work, in play, in relationships, in beliefs, in living, in love…do it all, with excellence! Don’t be mediocre!! Don’t be ordinary, even when doing ordinary things. Be the best! Excel at what you do! I hope that whenever I have a “celebration of life” service, people will also say of me, she lived a life of excellence! Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

Man! She has an attitude!!

As mentioned in last week’s post, I indicated that I wanted to share the “powers” that each of us have within our grasp, but that many fail to see them. It usually takes a life-changing event to show a person what they are made of! So this is a continuation on that topic… I would like to show people that they don’t have to wait for a life-changing event to realize their strength. These “powers” are something that we can utilize and engage every day of our lives. Last week’s power was FAITH. This week’s power is ATTITUDE!

You get up one morning, and you’re feeling great; “on top of the world,” in fact. You KNOW that this is going to be a good day! You get dressed for work, get in your car, and merge into traffic. Everything is going really well, until someone begins riding your bumper, trying to make you go faster than you want. You can tell just by their demeanor, they have watched too much NASCAR racing, and they have convinced themselves they are, indeed, an accomplished race driver. When you think they cannot possibly get any closer to your back bumper, they finally whiz around you, and cut back in front of you so close, that you have to slam on brakes to avoid rear-ending THEM! The coffee you were drinking spills over on your clothes, and your fingers have now been burnt and are sticky. At this point, that wonderful feeling you had before leaving the house is gone! For many, this one moment will define the day for them. No matter how good their intentions were when leaving the house, everything has now been ruined. You end up with a lousy attitude for the rest of the day…

Basically, you gave that perfect stranger the control to impact your day. You’ve allowed this person to take away the positive feelings that you had when you started out that morning. You’ve allowed one simple, random act of ignorance to influence your attitude, and destroy your day.

I come across a lot of people who would love nothing better than to cause me to be as miserable as they are. But you know what? I don’t allow it, because I can control and direct my attitude. Believe me, I have found that the negative, ne’er sayer doesn’t get as much accomplished in life, and they seem to be miserable all the time. You’ve seen those people…seemingly with a dark, black cloud over their heads all the time. Gloom and doom seems to follow them around.

I like being positive. I believe very strongly that “positive” begets “positive.” I believe that you can change the direction of your life, and your success, by simply having a positive attitude. I was at a conference not too long ago…one that was three days long, and I was speaking at some point each day. After the second day, I had a conference attendee come up to me and say, “I’ve been watching you during this conference, and you’re different.” (Now, I seem to be told this quite often, and at the beginning, I can never figure out if being different is a good thing, or a bad thing…) I looked at the individual and responded, “How so?” She said, “When you enter a room, you seem to own it!” I guess I must had indicated by facial expression that the statement might not be a compliment. She immediately spoke again, and said,”I can see that I did not convey my thoughts accurately, because I certainly did not mean anything negative. What I meant to say is that when you enter a room, you EXPECT acceptance!” I looked at her bewildered, and said, “Of course! I DO expect acceptance! Why would I enter a room thinking that I would not be accepted?” I cannot imagine anyone getting up each morning, looking in a mirror, and saying to themselves…”Let’s go be a failure today!” I think you get what you expect! It is all about attitude! It is like the little train who thought he could…”I think I can…I think I can…” You know the ending…HE DID!!

Because I fly a lot, I am a member of numerous airline frequent flyer programs. As a result, the more miles you have, the more “perks” you receive. I used to fly Northwest Airlines quite a bit before Delta bought them out. Northwest called their frequent flyers “Elite.” It had been one of those trips where flight after flight had been either delayed or cancelled. All I needed was one more flight to get home, and it was not looking optimistic…We had been waiting in the gate area for hours upon hours. Everyone was so tired, including the young female agent who was very patiently enduring quite a bit of abuse from weary travelers. It got to be midnight, and the moment finally arrived when we were all going to be able to board the plane and get in the air. I stood in line, waiting for the agent to take my ticket and let me board. As I gave her the ticket, she paused a moment, and said, ” Ms. Selman, are you Elite?” I looked at her, smiled (although I was as exhausted as anyone else that night), gave her a little wink, and said, “As if I would be ANYTHING else…” She cracked up laughing, and said, “Go on and get your seat then.” Unfortunately, due to all of the rebooking of flights, my seat was at the very rear of the plane. I placed my briefcase underneath the seat, placed my coat in the overhead bin, and settled in. Just as I had finished doing all of that, I heard an attendant state, “Would passenger Selman please press your call light?” My first thought was, “Oh no! They are going to bump me from this flight!! I’m never going to get home tonight!” So, I reached up and pressed the call light. The agent from the gate came down to my seat and said, “Ms. Selman, please get your things and come with me.” I stood up, got my coat, got my briefcase and followed her, all the time asking, “Where are we going?” She said, “You’ll see!” She then proceeded to take me to the first class cabin and gave me a seat there for my trip home! Now, I know there were a lot of people on that flight, who were at higher “Elite” status than me; however, I got the first class seat because of my positive attitude. And to be honest, that happens a lot for me!

I refuse to let people bring me down with their negativity. I enjoy life! I enjoy being positive! And yes, I DO expect acceptance. I always see the glass as being half full…Life can be so much fuller, satisfying and wonderful if you go through each day with a positive outlook…even when things don’t always go your way. That’s what I do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

The POWER within each of us…

It continually amazes me when people don’t see their own worth and value. I believe so strongly that every person was created for a purpose. God gave us brains and the ability to make free choices. It is up to us to figure out exactly what we were created for, and to “search” for our purpose in life. So many fail at that mission simply because they never recognize their own worth. So, if you will bear with me over the next few weeks, I want to “explore” the various “powers” that lie within each of us. I think the secret to life is to discover your “powers,” and use them to make the world a much better place.

I think we would have to begin with the power of faith. No matter what your religion, most of us believe in a higher being. People often use phrases like, “It’s God’s will.” “Trust in God.” “I believe in miracles!” Or, if you are part of the FaceBook world, you see daily requests asking for prayers, and the subsequent comments as to whether prayers were answered. Even the Bible states that if we have the faith of a mustard seed, we could move mountains. Now, that is real power…and it lies within each of us. 

The question I have is this: “Do we really have faith, and do we exercise it daily?” For example, we pray to God with a specific request, and are amazed and quite surprised when the prayer is actually answered…as if we did not really expect positive results. So where was the faith? By definition, faith is “a strong belief or trust in someone or something. : belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs. : a system of religious beliefs. plural faiths: belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” As you see, all of these definitions include one basic word: “belief.” So, if we go with that definition, “faith” should be something that we “believe,” whether founded or unfounded. What do you “believe” to be true in your personal life? And do those beliefs enrich your life, make your day to day existence better or worse?

I have faith in what I can do. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can stand on a stage in front of hundreds of people, and that I can hold their attention, be entertaining, and send them home with at least one bit of education or information that they can use for the betterment of their own lives, or in the lives of someone else. I know I can do that! It is a belief in myself. Shouldn’t our faith in God be just that strong, if not stronger? Shouldn’t we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are in His care, that He designed us and wanted a good life for us, that we have value and worth? Shouldn’t we believe that fact, and act on it everyday? I meet people from all over the country, and you would be surprised by the number of individuals who cannot explain their beliefs or faith to me, or why they live a certain way. I will be honest, it perplexes me. My faith comes from a lifetime of teaching and examples…my parents, my family, friends, educators, real leaders. It comes from experience, and I cannot imagine living a life without faith! I think they should add another word to the definition of “faith,” and that would be “action.” If you do not put your faith into action, it is not really faith.

I have faith that the world can be a better place. I have faith that I can always be a better person. I have faith that I was created in a perfect image, and I am worthy and valued. I have faith that my prayers will be answered, but not always with the answer I want. I have faith that I matter in this world! I have faith that one day I will be judged for the life that I have lived, and I want to hear those words, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

Which “Cat” are you listening to?

I can almost believe that Spring is just around the corner…beautiful weather…birds are chirping…and, at least for today, it is warmer than it has been. For the first time in months, I am not dressed in double layers of clothing. Spring cannot get here fast enough for me…Usually Spring begins my “conference” speaking schedule, and I can end up in numerous locations from east coast to west coast in just a short matter of time. You never know what might happen at any of these conferences and that will lay the groundwork for this week’s story…

I have spoken at numerous conferences, and as a speaker, you have to be prepared for any “unplanned happenings” during a presentation. The bottom line is that I only have a specified amount of time to speak. Because educational credit is provided for my sessions, I am required to speak the entire length of time for which I am scheduled. I was speaking at one conference when a huge thunderstorm came through and knocked out all of the electricity. We were in a room with no windows, so I, along with several hundred conference attendees were literally in pitch black darkness. Knowing that I could not afford to wait the storm out, and because I am such a “visual” speaker, I continued with my presentation, alluding to my facial expressions, and hand motions. In the middle of my doing this, a board member had gone to her car and gotten a flashlight. Of course, being a kid at heart, when they gave me the flashlight, the first thing I did was place it under my chin and began making “monster faces.” The audience was on the floor laughing (although I could not see them…). I then continued my presentation in the dark, with the help of the flashlight. The executive board was more than pleased that I had not let the situation sidetrack my presentation.

On another occasion, I was in Florida making a presentation in a room that had windows and two doors that led directly outside. During my presentation we began hearing a cat (apparently in heat) “meowing” really loud right outside one of the doors. I would say a few words, and then the cat would “say a few words.” Everyone began trying very hard not to laugh, including me! The dialogue kept going back and forth to the point that I could no longer tell which “Cat” the audience was listening to. I knew that this was a “battle” that I was not going to win, so I just stopped, and asked someone near the door to please let the cat come in! Once the cat got inside, he immediately stopped his caterwauling and I was able to finish my presentation.

In life, no matter how well you have things planned, the “unexpected” always happens. How well you deal with those unexpected “life events” depends on your attitude, graciousness and confidence. You can let those events defeat you, destroy the moment, and take away your success, OR…you can embrace the experience and rise to the challenge. The choice is always up to you! And believe me, someone is always watching to see exactly how you deal with those unplanned “moments.” What are your actions saying about you? I hope that I always show grace, patience, and innovative responses to those unexpected life events. Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

My Grandpa Was A REAL Cowboy!!

WOW!! We have had some kind of cold weather here in the South!! And NO, we are NOT used to it!! One inch of snow can totally shut down an entire city, so you can imagine how we have dealt with 6+ inches!! Lots of fun, but I am so ready for Spring. Hope all of you are staying warm!

Whenever I remember my Grandpa Selman, an immediate image comes into view…a tall, fit man in a cowboy hat and cowboy boots…and usually on a horse. We lived on the property with my grandparents for much of my early young life. You can imagine how this “man’s man” handled having three little girls under his feet all of the time. I’m sure he was glad to have our little rascal brother come along later on… Although he could come across a little gruff at times, he was just a big ole’ teddy bear that was so tender, gentle, patient, and loving with us. We loved him!!

He was bigger than life to me. I can remember him pulling up a rifle from the hip and taking the head off of a snake that was wound around a fence we were about to approach. He was so good a marksman, he didn’t even have to bring the rifle up to his shoulder and aim…he just shot from the hip. The Rifleman had nothing on him!! I would follow him around everywhere and he taught me quite a lot. He taught us how to care for animals, how to respect nature, how to build, how to lay brick, how to be obedient and respectful…the list goes on and on. On this one particular day he taught me how to stand up for myself.

Some of my cousins lived across the road from our house, and, of course, they would either come over to our house everyday, or we would go to theirs. As children will do, we usually ended up arguing and getting in a fight. I would usually back down and get the “worse for wear” when those “encounters” took place. In other words, my cousin would always win the “fight.” I had no idea that my grandpa had been observing a number of these altercations. On this occasion, after my cousin had gone home, my grandpa sat me on his lap, brushing my tears away. After I had stopped crying, he sat me up where I could look him straight in the eye. He explained to me that I should not back down each time, and let my cousin “run over” me. He went on to say that the next time my cousin came over, and I let him get the best of me, that he was going to give me a spanking if I did not stand up for myself. Now, I know some of you are already in an uproar that anyone would spank a child, but you have to know that my grandfather never, ever lifted a hand to me in his lifetime. I think it would have broken his heart if he had. He would have been the one who ended up crying. Course, being a child, I did not know that he would not follow through on that promise.

So the day began, and my cousin came over to play. And sure as the world, we got into a disagreement, and the shoving began. I was about to let him win, when I happened to see my grandpa standing behind a tree observing the entire incident. That’s all I needed!! I went after my cousin with everything that was in me, and I won that day! I looked over at Grandpa, and he grinned and winked at me. A funny thing happened after that incident…my cousin never picked a fight with me again. There seemed to be a mutual respect between us from that point on.

Now, this is a childhood story, and I certainly am not advocating that people should reconcile their differences by fighting each other. However, I learned a valuable lesson that day. If you allow someone to “run over” you once, they will continue to do so. Who will stand in your defense if you do not know how to do that for yourself? Respect yourself enough to defend who you are and what you believe in. Do it in a mature, communicative, non-violent manner. There’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself…be strong! That’s what I try to do. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Who to call??

It was a year ago this week that I lost my Mother. They say that time will ease the pain, and I am so hoping that is the truth. However, I pretty much know that the hole in my heart will be felt for the remainder of my life. I am coping much better, but there have been so many “adjustments” that have had to be made in my day to day life. There’s one that has been harder to accept than others, and that was the daily phone call that I made to my Mama. No matter which part of the country I was in, I always made it a point to “check in.”

Even in the later stages of her disease, when thought process and memory became even more of an issue, she seemed to remember that I would be calling. We would talk about everything and anything…and laugh a lot. At the end of each call, when it came time to say good-bye, Mother would thank me for calling. She would always comment that not all children would call their parents on a daily basis, and she appreciated it.  I would always tell her that I did not call for her and Daddy, but rather, I called for me…that I needed to hear their voices.

I had a dear friend that lost her Mom a number of years ago. During one of our conversations, as she was describing her loss, she said, “there’s no one to call now.” I asked, “What do you mean?” She shared that whenever she went on a trip, she would call to say goodbye, and then upon returning, she would call to say she had made it back home safely. This was just one example of the calls that she made to her mother on a regular basis. I empathized with her, but did not truly understand the depth of that particular loss, until I experienced that same loss myself. Now, I still call my father, but it is not the same. My Mama was the “talker.”

Those of you who have parents who are still living, if you can’t visit them, please give them the gift of hearing your voice on the phone. How much time would it take? Five minutes? And what a difference those five minutes would make in their lives! Believe me, there will come a time when you would give everything to just pick up the phone, and hear their voice. What I would not give for just one more phone call…Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

There’s an elephant in the room…

I’m hoping that everyone stayed warm this past week. I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for Spring! I was disheartened to hear that the “official” groundhog saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of cold weather…Oh well, that will make us just that more thankful when warm weather does finally arrive! Now, to this week’s story…

Whenever I travel to a conference, even for one presentation, I always take two outfits to wear. You never know what might happen, and I like to have a “spare,” just in case… On this particular occasion, I was headed down to Orlando, FL, for a huge conference. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I had just picked up a brushed silk suit from the dry cleaners, so I threw it in my garment bag, and headed for the airport. I cannot explain why I did not take two suits for that trip.

I arrived at the hotel and settled in for the evening. The next morning, I got up as usual, took my shower, and began getting dressed. I pulled my suit out and stepped into the skirt. Once I had the skirt on, I looked down and realized that there was a HUGE crease going from my right hip down to my left knee. In other words, the entire front of the skirt was creased. It looked awful! I quickly got out of the skirt and fired up the steam iron. I pressed and pressed that skirt to no avail. Nothing I did removed the crease!

(At this point in the story, I need to give you a little background about me. As a professional speaker, I am very particular about how I dress. The hair has to be “just right,” which most days can prove to be a challenge in that I have naturally curly hair. I get a surprise each morning because I never know which way it is going to go…I use just enough makeup to hide nature’s damages, but not enough to make me look like a hussy. The suits must be stylish, clean, fit well, have no creases or lines, and NO “rumples” anywhere. Shoes must be polished and have no noticeable scrapes. If  even one of these areas are not as they should be, it will definitely impact my presentation and delivery.)

So here I was in Orlando with only one suit, and it had that big ole’ crease across the front. What to do? I knew that once I got onstage, and started my keynote address, that people would be noticing the crease, and for some, it would become so distracting, that they would not hear my message. As I stood to the side, waiting for my introduction and cue to come onstage, I was perplexed as to how I could reconcile that blasted crease. The moment came, the introduction was given, and I made my way to the center of the stage. I walked to the very edge of the stage, as close to the audience as possible, and said, “I would like to draw everyone’s attention to my skirt, and the crease on the front. I do not normally wear wrinkled clothing. I know that it is there, and I tried to get rid of it, but here’s a little life secret that just might help you out in the future. If the dry cleaners put the crease in, they are the ONLY ones who can remove it! So take a good look at it, satisfy your curiosity, and I will begin.” The audience broke out into hysterical laughter and applause! In fact, I had to wait quite a few moments for them to settle down. I then gave the keynote that they were expecting, and it ended better than I had anticipated.

Why is it, that when there is something so obviously wrong (like the elephant in the middle of the room), that we act like it doesn’t exist; knowing that all anyone can see or think about IS the elephant in the room? I have found that when you go ahead and bring the problem out into the open for dialogue and communication, you take away it’s ability to cripple and limit you. I try very hard to maintain that control, keep the lines of communication open, and talk about that elephant. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

“They don’t care about us either…”

This could be considered a continuation of last week’s post, in that this story happened on the same trip…

If you will remember, last week I shared a story of a trip that took me 20 hours to get from Jackson, MS, to Kearney, NE. While waiting for delayed flight, after delayed flight (16 hours’ worth), all flights to Denver (my connecting flight city) were finally cancelled. Well over 100 passengers were in the same situation as I found myself…needing to rebook a new flight. As was usual for this particular airline (United), they provided only one working phone for passenger use, and only one agent to rebook everyone. If you are familiar with air travel, you understand that every second counts when attempting to secure a new reservation once flights are cancelled. The prevailing rule of thumb is that seats are awarded on a “first come, first serve” basis. This means that the first ones in line usually receive the available seats on other flights. The people toward the end of the line are simply out of luck.

So once the announcement had been made that all flights to Denver were cancelled, there was a wild dash to get to the front of the line (or as close to it as possible). I have become very adept with this process, so I ended up the tenth person in a crowd of over 100. All of us were tired, and maybe just a little punchy. The poor agent was harried, tired herself, and having to put up with all sorts of  abuse from passengers, who held her personally responsible for the snow blizzard.

As we were standing in line, there was a man, about seven people behind me, that just could not contain his impatience and frustration. He was constantly huffing and puffing, drawing more and more attention to himself…At regular intervals, he would step out of line, walk up to the agent, glare at her intently, harrumph with an exaggerated sigh, and then turn and walk back to his place in line. His entire demeanor conveyed that he was very obviously inconvenienced (the ONLY one in our group, apparently…), a very important person (as all the rest of us were not…), and that he should be serviced immediately. He kept getting out of line and approaching the agent, just to glare at her. Finally, after several trips to the counter, he finally interrupted the agent and shouted, “United Airlines does not care about their customers!” The agent never looked up, never stopped working on the current passenger’s rebooking. While typing, she said, “You are absolutely right, sir!” “They don’t care about their employees either!” She left the man speechless, and gave us all a little chuckle at her “moxie.”

This entire “drama” brought home some “truths” for me. First, I feel strongly that if you work for someone, and are accepting a paycheck from them, they deserve your loyalty. If you don’t like the company you work for, or don’t like the way they do business, then find someone else to work for. Life is too short to work at a job that you do not like! Secondly, I was taught that I was not better than anyone else, and that no one was better than me. I don’t understand individuals who think they deserve preferential treatment; that they should be “served” before others. We are all in this life together, and wouldn’t it be so much better if we treated each other with respect, consideration, and courtesy? That’s what I try to do. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…