By Judith W. Umlas, IIL Senior Vice President, Trainer, and Author of Grateful Leadership
I was running a bit late for a doctor’s appointment this week, and was on a major thoroughfare on which traffic was fortunately flowing. So I wouldn’t be too late… But suddenly, the car two ahead of mine slowed down and then came to a gentle but complete stop — there was no traffic light or other reason to stop that I could see. I waited rather impatiently until the “reason” emerged — a stooped over, elderly lady with a cane who was walking about one step every few seconds as she crossed in front of the long line of cars! Not a horn was honked! Instead, we all waited patiently now for that lady, who was truly taking her life in her hands, to cross the very wide road. Once she had crossed completely to the other side, not just gotten through the lineup of cars, the first driver took off with some speed. I raised my hands in applause above my head, but knew the driver would not see my appreciation. I hoped that the other cars behind me would, though.
I was already late for my appointment, but I suddenly felt “driven” to FOLLOW THAT CAR!!! I needed to tell the driver that what he or she had done was truly an act of kindness and consideration, and how moved I was by that action. So I edged out in front of the second car (I was the third) and sped up to catch up to the lead car. I could see the clock ticking and my appointment time getting farther and farther in the distance, but I was compelled. With relief, after several minutes, I saw the car turn into a supermarket parking lot and I pulled into a spot right near the one the driver took and parked. The driver emerged, and energized by my enthusiasm, I walked up to the person, a woman I could see now, with determination. I called out “Miss!” to her and she turned around with some surprise.
What I told her was this: “I was two cars behind you when you stopped to allow that elderly woman to cross the highway. I have to tell you that what you did was an amazing and caring act of kindness. I just HAD to thank you for what you did and for the example you set for all of us behind you. No one was honking you, or trying to get you to move on!” She got misty-eyed, as did I, and reached out to take my hand. Though she was from another culture and seemed to have a bit of difficultly with the language, we were definitely speaking the same language. We spoke it with our eyes and we spoke it with our hands. Then she said, “I was just doing what anyone would do! It was the right thing to do!”
“Yes,” I said, “but many people would not do what you did, even though it was definitely the right thing to do. And that’s why I had to follow your car, even though I wasn’t coming here, and tell you personally how much that meant to me.” Her face lit up, which lit me up! She thanked me several times for letting her know how I felt. And I let her know that it was my honor and my pleasure.
And that folks is the Power of Acknowledgment! But you don’t have to go on a “wild” (for me) car chase to do so; it just shows that opportunities are all around us to let others know the difference they make and how this moves and inspires us!
(Oh, and by the way, that really is my car and that IS my license plate!)
Learn more about Grateful Leadership at www.GratefulLeadership.com.