A Surprise Message After 40 Years

Never would I have imagined that a postcard, sent 40 years ago, could have had such an impact.

But a few weeks ago, I received this email from a former classmate:

“I wanted to share something with you that you gave me right after graduation and I’ve kept all these years (see below). As you can see, the postage at the time was 16 cents!! Ah, the old days! That small wooden block/postcard with the words “When All Else Fails, Try a Prayer” has been with me (on my dorm or home desk, wherever I’ve lived) for the last 40 years. And it’s been a reminder of what I need to do when things don’t seem to be going well. It’s funny how the small things we do (like this gift you gave me) can have such lasting and important consequences. So thank you Laurie!” –J.F.

TryAPrayer

I was stunned. It arrived at a time when I wondered if I was having a positive impact on anyone. And I don’t even remember sending the postcard, or why.

I’m sharing this personal experience with you not to prompt a pat on the back, but for a more important reason:

How many times have we considered a gesture, but never did it because we didn’t think something so small would make much of a difference?

We never know, do we?

Have you heard stories about someone who got a handwritten thank-you note from their boss or co-worker and posted it in their office, cubicle, truck or toolbox? How about the youngster who earned an unexpected coupon for a free dessert after doing something good? Rather than redeem it, he hung it on his bedroom wall for years.

Often recipients don’t do what my friend did, so we rarely know if we made a difference.

But you DO.

And it’s usually the smallest things that have the biggest impact.

The Marketing Team from OrthoAccel® Technologies in Houston, Texas proved this point at a two-day Strategic Planning Summit I facilitated this summer. The team gathered in Breckenridge, Colorado, but one of their co-workers had to stay behind and hold down the fort. While she was present, virtually, through teleconference, it wasn’t the same as having her with them.

So the Chief Innovation Officer/VP of Marketing came up with a plan. She asked their absent teammate to take a selfie and email it over. Then they uploaded it to a computer and TV projection screen. Everyone gathered around the TV, encircling her image, and we took this picture:

OrthoAccelTeamSelfie8-8-14

Then they sent the team photo back to her. Do you think it had an impact on her? (It certainly did on me!)

It is the season to give thanks and remember others, so here are some ways to communicate how valued someone is:

  • Reach out to one person on your team each day. Talk to them. Ask for their opinion.
  • Get up ten minutes earlier and spend that time with a family member. (They also need to be awake for this to work)
  • Promote a worthy small business person, vendor or unemployed colleague to others
  • Post recommendations on LinkedIn (if your company doesn’t prohibit it)
  • Tell someone what you appreciate about them. For a bigger impact, say it in a handwritten note.
  • Take time to listen without judgment. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.
  • Forgive a debt for someone who’s going through tough times
  • Remember that everyone makes mistakes – give someone a second chance

And most importantly, let someone know if their gesture made a difference for you. Your message may come at a time when they most need to hear it!

Has anyone ever done something memorable for you that you’d like to recognize here? Please tell us about it in the comments section.