This I Believe

Lisa - Evansville, Indiana
Entered on July 18, 2008
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Smiling is one of the most important things you can do. I’m not talking about that fake “I’m-trying-not-to-choke-you-because-you’re-annoying-me-but-I-have-to-be-polite-to-you� smile, but rather an honestly heartfelt “I am so happy to see you� smile.

I’ll never forget something that happened many years ago when I worked the front desk of a hotel while I was in college. Dozens of guests checked in every evening during my shift. One evening, about thirty minutes after a particularly busy rush of check-ins, a guest returned to the lobby and handed me a card and recognition ribbon. These ribbons were sent to members of the hotel chain’s frequent guest program because as frequent guests, they knew better than anyone else what exceptional service was and if a hotel employee had provided it. A ribbon was given to directly to the employee and the accompanying card was given to the hotel manager. I was a little surprised to receive it; I had only worked there a few weeks and it was the first such ribbon I’d been given. I told the guest thank you and asked him what I had done that was so special. His reply was simple. “You smiled at me.� I must have looked puzzled, because he continued, saying “No one has smiled at me all day. I had an awful day filled with grumpy people. When I came in, there was a line of people waiting to check in and your phone was ringing. If anyone had a right to be grumpy, you did, but you weren’t. You glanced up, smiled at me, and said you’d be with me as soon as you could. That made my day a little better and you deserve to be recognized for it.� I was surprised that my smile made that much difference, but the longer I worked there, the more I came to realize how important smiling was. I came to realize just how much of a difference it could make to a harried traveler or a stressed businessman if I smiled at them. And it can make that same difference to everyone, everywhere. Now, I admit, there are people in this world that make it very difficult to smile at them. For instance, there was a guest at the same hotel who somehow managed to blame ME when the airline lost his luggage. (It’s true; you can’t make this stuff up!) But when faced with people like that, I always try to remember that they probably need a smile more than anyone else.