Nicole Brodeur, a writer for the Seattle Times newspaper, posted this article about a Costco employee who always went above and beyond his normal duties to make the customers’ days better than when they arrived at the store.
Fifty-six-year-old Tom Goessman contracted polio as a child and got around in a wheelchair. While working at the Seattle Costco store, he used a standing wheelchair while validating each customer’s receipt before they left the store. But that’s not all he did. He would make a game of guessing the amount spent just by looking at the goods in a customer’s cart; more often than not, he was right on the money. He would also draw pictures on the customer’s receipt if that customer was accompanied by a child, something fun for the kids to look forward to.
But all of a sudden, Tom was no longer at Costco’s Seattle location; customers were more than a little concerned. The Seattle Times has a column titled, Asked and Answered which provides an opportunity for people to contact the newspaper with queries that are on their mind. Turns out, many Seattle Costco customers took advantage of that column to discern the whereabouts of their beloved Tom. The person who became the highlight of their Costco warehouse shopping trips was nowhere to be found.
After some research, the newspaper discovered he had moved to Glendale, Arizona after being invited to visit that state by one of Costco’s customers, a man whose son is also paralyzed and who thrives in the dry, Arizona weather. You see, Tom gets life-threatening infections each year because of his polio; the damp, Seattle weather being an aggravating factor. Tom spent some time in Arizona two years in a row and was pleased to discover that his infections became a thing of the past. So what did he do? He relocated to Glendale, Arizona, and took on the same job he held in Seattle.
When columnist Nicole Brodeur wrote her original article about Tom a colleague of hers suggested, “If you want to restore your faith in humanity, read the readers’ comments.” Ms. Brodeur knew how much vitriol can be included in readers’ comments and so doubted her colleague’s assessment.
The comments under an online news story are a saloon I step into with one hand on my holster. One person makes a valid, thoughtful point, but then two stools down, someone pops off with a sexist or racist comment. Someone else weighs in on that and one scroll later, a full-on brawl has broken out, the subject of the story long forgotten.
That was not the case for those readers who responded to her article. The comments were filled with positive stories about their interactions with Tom during their Costco warehouse shopping expeditions; they missed him so much! The kindnesses that Tom extended to busy Costco shoppers elicited more kindness, revealed in the shoppers’ recollections of their brief times spent with him.
It’s been said that hate breeds hate but I’m convinced just the opposite is true. Kindness generating kindness is what I’ve experienced time and again in my life; even the smallest of kindnesses can douse the flames of hatred.
And in the world in which we’re currently living, don’t you think it’s about time hatred was put in its place, once and for all?
Snail Mail (personal) vs Electronic Mail (impersonal)
I’m thrilled that instant information rules our day for the most part and I’m SUPER thrilled that we can communicate via Blogging, but I’m also a proponent of posted/written communication.
First of all: Blogging.
I think us Bloggers relish the opportunity to “be published” on the Internet because not many of us will ever have a byline in a syndicated newspaper, and book-publishing just seems too hard a goal to attain. With that said, however, I write with this in mind: job counselors often advise employees to dress for the job they want, not for the job they currently hold, so I’m Blogging with a publishing intent that takes me out of my home-office and into the homes of others. If I can’t get others to read my articles, I may as well be writing in a personal journal. So blogging is a great venue in which to reach the masses.
But I LOVE the written word. I own a Kindle, actually, I’m on my second Kindle, and that’s the only way I read books, be they fiction or non-fiction. I’m such a voracious reader, I’m convinced Kindle was invented just for me. 🙂 So when I say I love the written word, what I’m really saying is that I love letter writing. I own stationery, n. paper and other materials needed for writing, and I have a large accordion file that holds greeting cards, n. a decorative card sent to convey good wishes. (Definitions from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition, 2004.) I love sending cards and I love receiving cards, but mostly I love sending them.
Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times staff columnist wrote a piece that appeared in our local newspaper on January 13, 2012: For The Love of A Letter. She writes how wonderful it is to receive a piece of mail with our name on it, written in hand, which becomes “a bit of humanity among the bills and slick circulars.” She correctly states that the written letter is becoming a dying art, so much so that the United States Postal Service faces a very bleak, if not brief, future. Certainly e-mail is quick and doesn’t require one of those pesky, ever-changing-in-value postal stamps. Evites are quick and oh so engaging – NOT- as we read respondents’ comments about why they can’t attend. But Evites are pretty darn impersonal. Ted Kennedy Watson, owner of two Seattle shops with all things paper, states in Ms. Brodeur’s article that he “gets ‘hundreds’ of emails a day, some invitations to events that, en masse, lose some of their luster. You start to feel more included than invited.”
En masse communications – you’re simply one of the many e-mail addresses in someone’s global e-mail address book. I know we’ll always rely on this form of instant communication – I certainly do – but Ms. Brodeur hits it on the nail when she says that she hopes that “we don’t tweet or tap away the value of putting thoughts to paper, of taking the time.” (Even a “Dear John” written letter is more personal and respectful than a “Dear John” e-mail or text message.) She talks about letters that she’s saved over the years which instantly brought to mind one of my most valuable letters; one which I keep in my fireproof safe: the last letter my mother ever wrote to me. My parents still lived in Hawaii when I moved to the Seattle area in June of 1994 and my mother and I spoke on the phone at least two times a week. But it was her letters that I relished the most. One of those letters arrived in my mailbox on September 22nd, 1994. I read it, placed it to the side, and went about the rest of my day. Two days later my mother died in her sleep quite suddenly and inexplicably. When I received the news in a phone call from my father that day I frantically looked around for my mom’s letter hoping that I had not tossed it in the recycle bin. Glory hallelujiah – I had not. So two days before my mother died, I have her thoughts on paper, in her handwriting, and signed “Love, Mom” at the bottom of the second page.
Somehow I don’t think a saved e-mail could ever render the memories and the sentiments that my mother’s handwritten letter does every time I retrieve it from the safe to read it.
Facebook (I have an account) and Twitter, and other social sites can continue to do what they do, but let’s not dispense with the antiquated and/or archaic practice of putting pen to paper. Please?