Anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows I have a very simple philosophy when it comes to dealing with workplace stress.
When I encounter guests who push my buttons:
- I weigh the risk of subjecting them to my rather unique sense of humor.
- If the reward outweighs the risk (which it usually does), I proceed.
- Once the guest has been dealt with accordingly, I move on.
- The stress vanishes – until the next time.
- I move on.
Every once in awhile, however, I meet a guest who will give me pause and who forces me to adjust my methods – if only for a short time.
Yes, it actually happens – even to me.
They were your typical family of Aussies:
- The strong, rugged Dad.
- Statuesque, blonde, perky Mom.
- Steadfast, helpful uncle.
- Two twin boys in their Twenties, both born-jokers.
And one unforgettable, slightly older brother, who, when he first caught my attention as I was loading their luggage during the check-out frenzy, appeared to be a tall, athletic, blue-eyed, auburn-haired young man with special needs.
I had no idea just how special he actually was.
His brothers were tossing balloons around the room like drunken toddlers while the adults were buzzing about scanning the room one last time. He stood motionless for a moment, taking it all in. Then he walked over to my cart, a bag in hand and a wide grin on his face. He whipped his rigid right arm back and forth and tossed the bag on the cart, then walked off to the elevators, pleased as punch at his success.
His family just giggled and followed him. I finished my labors and met them downstairs. The young man was bouncing across the crowded lobby. His rubbery legs appeared to buckle with every step but he kept moving. I have to admit, I was actually nervous watching him through the windows on the hotel’s valet deck- and it showed.
My dismay did not go unnoticed by his father, who joined me while we waited for their vehicle.
FATHER: Can you believe he couldn’t walk a year ago?
Needless to say, I was gobsmacked.
FATHER: He was in a terrible car crash two years ago. The driver was killed, but the passenger in the backseat was completely fine. He was in the front passenger seat and so he wasn’t so blessed. It’s taken him this long to get back on his feet but he’s done it.
ME: Can he communicate at all?
FATHER: No, he can’t say anything but “Mom” so far.
ME: But the doctors have determined that his brain is still functioning normally?
FATHER: Oh yeah! But he’s… I don’t know how to describe it…
ME: The software is still perfect, but the hardware has been damaged?
FATHER: Exactly! That’s the best way I’ve heard it described by anyone.
And then his father dropped his armor for a brief moment.
FATHER: It’s been such a rough road… before this… he had a baseball scholarship lined up and the future was already laid out.
ME: Except it never is. We never really know what the future holds for us, do we?
FATHER: I can’t argue that point… not after all this.
ME: It is a truly tragic story, though. In fact, it really couldn’t get any more tragic, could it?
FATHER: Definitely not. But you know what? He has a smile on his face from the minute he wakes up until he goes to sleep at night.
ME: How many of us can say that, right?
And with that, we began to load their SUV as his amazing son continued to bounce around and radiate positive vibes. I finished up, accepted a tip (naturally), and began to grin uncontrollably as I said goodbye to the entire family. For once, I walked away from a luggage call with far more than a gratuity.
The parallels between this man’s heroic son and my own life soon became obvious. Here is a young man who is trapped in his own body, but his mind is stronger than ever. And here I am, a not-so-young-man whose body is (relatively) strong but whose mind is fractured.
My encounter with the amazing young man from Australia will serve me well as I strive to stay positive this year.
Hey, you never know… it could finally happen.
See you in the lobby, kids…