It’d be difficult, if not impossible, to spend a week in Florida, especially at the launch of the holiday season, and not reflect on my dad. Although I was technically raised in Minnesota, by the time I came along (10 years after my then 10 year-old sister) my father was in the process of switching gears career-wise, so much of my upbringing was split between a lake and an ocean.
While he was the president of our most prominent city bank and a well-known investor in highly successful businesses across the nation, my dad was a simple man. A man who astutely believed in hard work, a man who loved nature, a man who befriended every person he encountered.
Growing up, I loved my time with him and what he taught me. Baling hay, raising horses, chopping wood for our potbelly stove to heat our home, shingling our roof. My dad believed in the core value of honest, hard work and its impact on a person’s overall success in life. He always told me, “You can be anything you want to be!” and I believed him. I grew to appreciate the outcomes I saw from putting my all into everything I did. I love that I inherited this from my dad’s example, his steadfast support and encouragement.
Now, my father also did not know a stranger, and when I was young, this was very embarrassing to me. He was boisterous in his greetings to everyone he encountered, wildly shaking hands and patting people on the back, exclaiming loudly, “How ya doin’ today?” Then invariably launching into conversation that was way too personal for my comfort level. It didn’t matter where we were - the grocery store, his bank, church, a restaurant, or just walking down the street - my dad would talk to every single person possible. I literally would cringe when he would leave our restaurant table or seat at church to go talk to or hug people we barely knew, if we even knew them at all.
When I moved to Washington D.C. to conduct my residency training for my doctorate degree, I warned my dad that people were different there, cold, unapproachable, and that he couldn’t just make eye contact and strike up conversations with complete strangers. “It’s dangerous, Dad! Please don’t do that here!” With a puzzled look, and I’m ashamed to say more than a small amount of hurt on his face, he asked, “Why not? People are people, Rebecca Jean ... everyone appreciates the human touch.”
Something shifted in me. I realized, as I watched my dad smile genuinely, hold open doors, make small talk on the subway in that big, scary metropolis, that he was right. I saw how people responded to him, how they seemed to turn on, how their demeanor would brighten and, whether I imagined it or not, how their whole day seemed to be better. I realized that for all the life lessons my father had taught me, this one was perhaps the most valuable of all. I vowed to be more like him. From my 20s to my now 40s, I’ve worked to perfect this gift I inherited from my very wise father. I smile at everyone and say, “Hello! How are you today?”and it is sincere, straight from my heart to theirs. People really do respond positively to that! Hopefully, it makes their day just a little bit lighter, happier. I know it keeps my soul clean and bright, and allows my heart to remain open, to remain a warm, loving, welcoming place. And guess what? Adopting this approach is truly contagious! How awesome is that?
For all our technology and advances in our modern-day world, we’ve yet to invent anything that can come even remotely close to the human touch. Try it on for size and see what an incredible impact it has on the people you encounter through your day. See what an incredible impact it has on your heart’s attitude.