If you’re like me (and most people), the last time you were deeply aware of all of the things it takes to make your life work was when something broke. Your car wouldn’t start. The coffee maker poured water all over your countertop and into the cabinets. The dryer melted your undergarments into a crispy ball. Or you go the permanent blue screen on your computer. Suddenly, you thought of a dozen places you needed to drive to–including Starbucks and the mall, since you got a coffee headache and you couldn’t order new undies without your computer. The devices you had been failing to maintain became the most important things in your world for at least a day or two. You fixed the ones you could, and you replaced those you couldn’t. Then, you vowed to be a better owner. You created a schedule for care and maintenance, with automated reminders on your smart phone. You won’t forget and pay the price again.
Great job! Now, look at the people in your life who make it work. Have you scheduled care and maintenance of those relationships? Hopefully, you already have a calendar with the birthdays of your loved ones on it, and you’ve scheduled reminders to buy their cards and gifts. You can’t easily forget Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, and the commercial holidays. There will be plenty of advertisements and sales to help you remember. But what about the dry cleaner, mailman, and store clerk? Walk through a typical morning with me:
7 AM – Wake up and, if I’m lucky, enjoy breakfast with Peter. If I am traveling for work and have an early flight or train to board, I might stop in my favorite coffee shop, where the baristas know my usual order. This helps me feel valued in the world, even if I am headed to a litigation forum where I will be seen as a demon because of the side I am on in a case.
8 AM – If I haven’t left for work travel, I might walk out with Peter and run an errand or simply get some exercise. We will pass the doorman and possibly the resident manager or a porter, each of who we wish a great day. Throughout the day, they will keep the building secure and ensure all systems are functioning effectively, so we can have heat, hot water, electricity, elevators, and more. They will also receive our mail, dry cleaning, and guests for us, if we are not there when they arrive.
8:05 AM – My errand might be to drop off the dry cleaning with the nice lady from New Jersey who works the counter at the shop across the street. The tailor will be there, too, and I like that I can now communicate with her more. She has been learning English, and I’ve learned a few phrases in Chinese and Thai, but I’m embarrassed to use them because I’m not actually sure what her native language is. I need to ask. I love that I live in a city where I so easily have opportunities to connect with people of such diverse backgrounds, and I get such great service from these women, who keep my wardrobe in good repair.
8:30 AM – If I’m traveling, I remind myself to be thankful for the people who maintain the railways, the taxi drivers, or the flight attendants, pilots, and air traffic controllers. There are also grounds crews, police officers, and firefighters who keep everything moving, even if I’m not aware of it in the moment. So much happens behind the scenes, from the information technology updates to the dispatch and surveillance. I am thankful I can go about my day not thinking about these things because someone else is.
It’s not even 9 AM, and I’ve already benefited from the kindness, commitment and labor of at least a dozen individuals that I can identify and numerous others I can only identify by position or title. It’s kind of crazy, then, isn’t it, that we think of ourselves as such separate beings? We need each other. We benefit from each other. We are better, stronger, and more capable together. For this reason, I created a Gratitude Game in which I tell at least one person in my life each day how much I appreciate them. Sometimes, I do this by mailing what I call a Worth Day card that I designed on Vistaprint.com. It reads:
Happy Worth Day!
Do you know what a difference you make?
These are just three things that I want to acknowledge you for:
Thank you for these and all that you do to make my world better!
Who have you overlooked, or even looked down on, but whose work makes your world better? Will you commit to expressing gratitude for them in some way this week? Let’s make this everyone’s best week yet!
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Nance L. Schick, Esq. is a New York City attorney and mediator who focuses on keeping people out of court and building their conflict resolution skills, especially in business and employment disputes. Her holistic, integrative approach to conflict resolution draws from her experience as a crime victim, human resources supervisor, minor league sports agent, and United Nations representative. She is a 2001 graduate of the State University of New York Buffalo Law School trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (ICERM). She is also creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution: Seven Choices and Five Actions of a Master, and an award-winning entrepreneur, who has been acknowledged by the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards), and Urban Rebound NY/Count Me In (Finalist, 2013 Pitch Competition).