So my last blog caused a few hissy fits from people who were either confused or offended by my position on protests for a $15/hr. minimum wage. For those who were surprised at my defending my beliefs, why were you so surprised? I have said it and written it over and over and over again that “My Blog Is Not My Speech”! I think people see me as a left leaner with my politics and frankly, I really am apolitical. If I were anything, I suppose I have a tendency toward more conservative beliefs. I think it’s in my DNA because my parents raised me to be self sufficient and not expect “hand-outs” or charity. The problem with that position is it can also suggest you don’t care about charity or equity. Again, if you know me even a little bit, you know I care profoundly about charity and equity. I also believe in transparency and being authentic, so part of my frustration with the subject last blog is actually directly connected to this one.
I think my knee-jerk reaction to any protest about the “Wealthy One Percent” is these protesters don’t see the big picture. They don’t realize that most “wealthy” people aren’t actually “greedy”, they are successful and very generous. Some of the most generous and caring human beings I have met in my life were both wealthy and unselfish. They care deeply about humanity and more often than not, they started out “poor”. They are the “success stories” we are inspired by every single day but to be generous and unselfish, you need not be wealthy. In fact, I believe a key character asset is how one reacts to one’s circumstance when things are not going well. I’ve seen rich people who are horrible human beings and I have met very poor people who are the same. Generosity of Spirit is not about money, or status, or power. Generousity of Spirit is rooted in something I feel very passionately about and that is “Mindfulness”.
I had a trip to Phoenix, Arizona this past week for an insurance company conference. I travel a ton and sometimes, I get really tired of it. In fact, when I complain about it, my wife, Darlene reminds me I could always get a “real job”…and then it goes away! This week, however was really difficult. A little over a week ago, we made the incredibly logical but amazingly difficult decision to end our 11 year old border collie, Jazper’s pain. He was full of cancer and it took over fast. We had a wonderfully humane vet come to our home and while laying contentedly on our back lawn, we said goodbye. I haven’t cried that hard in a long time. So, predictably, I wasn’t feeling very “mindful”. I was feeling sorry for myself. I also had my job to do and ironically, that usually brings with it a hyper-positive approach to my life lessons I share with my audiences around the world. It didn’t help that I had a full load to carry.
Quite often, I sell books after my talk. It’s pretty cool, actually. To have actually written and published a book and then have people, lots of people actually, buy it and then have me sign it with my feet is a special moment. The only problem is I have to get my books where I am going and though logic says to ship them, my practice is to take them with me as checked baggage. One of my cases in a bag weighs 36 pounds. I also usually have a suitcase for my clothing and always carry a briefcase. I can guess what you are thinking. How do I carry them? Good question! All my bags are soft-sided and they all have straps and I put those straps over my shoulders. I also have a system that works pretty well. I utilize luggage carts, although I must admit I am always offended by the fact most airports in North America charge for cart rentals. Talk about greedy! It is the cost of doing my work and I suck it up. But here is the most important system in my travels…Mindful People!
I can’t even remember the last time I had to pluck my luggage off a baggage carousel. Somebody “always” offers to help. It is the safest bet there is in my life. But this week, something extra happened that inspired this blog. I had paid the criminal price of the luggage cart rental, was approached by not one, but two separate individuals to help offload my bags. Its always funny when they grab my bag of books. I warn them it’s heavy, yet they always say the same thing…”You actually carry this yourself?” I do! Anyways, I took my three bags and pushed the cart (I do that with my chest) to the shuttle to pick up my rental car. I don’t know if you know this or not, but 95% of the time I travel, I rent cars. I actually get a kick out of the reaction every single time. But recognizing that the majority of the time, the person checking my documents and drivers license have never seen me before, I too have adopted mindfulness. I always make a quick humorous comment like, “Bet you’ve never seen this before”, or “Ready for something completely different?”. Whatever I say, it’s always received much better than just thrusting my license and rental agreement out the driver’s side window expecting them to just go with it. In fact, and this isn’t meant to put myself on a pedestal, I make an effort every single day of my life, and not just when I am working, to be mindful of people who may have never had a personal encounter with someone without arms. In fact, its more than just mindful, it’s called manners. The last thing in the world I want is to make someone uncomfortable with me. Sometimes, I’ll even accept help when I don’t really need it and not to patronize people either. In fact, I know many handicapped folks who are so self-centered and angry, they are insulted by people’s sympathy and/or offers of assistance. I just can’t live that way.
So I pushed the cart and my luggage to the shuttle and in Phoenix, they have a massive rental terminal offsite from the airport and it has all the rental companies under one roof and the shuttle busses are driven by people who work not for the rental companies, but the facility. I was delighted to see that they also have staff at the airport pickup directing and assisting all travellers with their luggage who aren’t drivers. This man hauled my three bags on board the bus and when I asked him to hang on while I got him a tip, he answered ” No tip required sir, it’s our job”! When’s the last time you heard that? So I sat near the front and the driver, who noticed me as he sat behind the wheel politely greeted me and reminded me if I needed any help to just ask. Look, I know what you may be thinking…they do that for everybody. I suppose that’s valid, but “they” aren’t all polite and mindful, are they? Ever been in a New York cab? Anyways, he was very polite and friendly and just before he pulled the bus full of travellers to the curb, he got on his radio and said something to someone, presumably a dispatcher letting them know his status. After we stopped, he immediately cane to me and said, “If you aren’t in a rush, let some of these folks get off first and I’ll help you with your bags. Again, not a first. But what happened next was. As I stood by the double front doors of the bus, a man in the same uniform as the driver and the guy at the terminal who loaded my bags but refused a tip pushed a cart to the bottom of the stairs of the bus and the driver simply dropped all three of my bags on the cart. He said to me, “Thought you could use a cart so hope you don’t mind me radioing for one”? Say what? In fact, the guy who brought the cart even offered to push it to my car for me and I politely declined. All the way to my car, I had a smile on my face. After Jazzy dying, I hadn’t done that very much in the last week. I was so impressed! The thing is, I bet they do that for everyone, or at least I’d like to believe that. I also believe one of the keys is for the recipient of such generous service to show genuine appreciation. I also work at that. Zig Ziglar called it “Attitude of Gratitude”. I call it common sense. Some people call it stupid! The question I want to ask is why are some people void of mindfulness?
A couple of weeks ago, I was travelling home to Calgary from Toronto. I know Pearson International Airport better than my own neighbourhood (how bad is that?) and I use the handicapped accessible/family washrooms for my personal needs. By the way, I actually need a larger washroom, since I have to undress and dress myself…without arms! I will leave the technique to your imagination, but the next time you think life is tough, go to the bathroom and don’t use your hands! Anyways, I need the room. So do parents changing baby’s diapers. So do people in wheelchairs. The people who DO NOT NEED these washrooms is everybody else! Sorry, but did it ever occur to you that handicapped washrooms are only for the handicapped. In most European airports, to use a special needs washroom you have to get an attendant to unlock it. This rule was applied after repeated abuse of these special facilities by Non-Handicapped People! Really? If you are imagining this as a rant of mine, think again. Have you ever considered that some handicapped folks can’t just “hold it”? These washrooms are specifically for the handicapped, and not for you just cause they’re bigger and can accommodate your roller bag that you should be checking anyways!
I actually experienced something that was surreal. I had gone into the special needs/ family washroom by one of the Air Canada gates. I was done and opened the door to leave. Straight ahead of me was a woman with small baby, diaper bag and big purse and the baby was screaming. Obvious why she needed this bathroom. I actually held the door open for her when a dick in a business suit with a roller bag, briefcase and iPhone stuck in his ear, just walked into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him! I know he saw the mother and baby and he didn’t say “Excuse Me”, he just barged in. UNBELIEVABLE!!! I even apologized to the woman with the baby and she just shook her head and went into the woman’s washroom right next door. I was so tempted to wait at the door and challenge the dick for his behaviour but I chose not to because who knows what I would have said and what may have transpired? It sure made me mad and at the same exact time reminded me that manners and mindfulness are not common sense they are a choice.
Being mindful is really quite simple. It is rooted in something we “All” learn when we are very young…”.The Golden Rule”! How hard is it to treat people the way you like to be treated? And even if it were hard, isn’t it worth it. To be kind, considerate and respectful of people. Just imagine if everybody made it a goal to be mindful. Imagine how much nicer our word would be. I am blessed to see it enough that I refuse to lose faith.