Decent People, All Around Us
by Keith Yancy
Maybe you are like me.
Maybe you find that reading the news — with its inexhaustible supply of crime reports, dire predictions, scandals, and hollow “newz” about celebrities — to be relentlessly depressing. Maybe you have issues with difficult people at work, at home, or elsewhere. Maybe you haven’t seen close friends, or even close family, in much, much too long.
Maybe the combination of all these factors makes you feel increasingly, inevitably more isolated, despite the frenetic busy-ness of everyday life and technology designed to keep us connected.
And maybe it takes just one small incident to shake you out of that thinking, to remind you that despite all the negative “noise” which can threaten us, there’s still good, decent people all around us. People who, with simple acts of kindness, or a smile, or just a thoughtful gesture, tap our proverbial shoulders and show us that there are still plenty of good people in the world.
I’ve witnessed several such examples over the past few weeks. Strangers who didn’t think of themselves first, who helped me for no real reason or reward, who went beyond a job description to “do the right thing,” when there was nothing extra to be gained by doing so. Consider some recent personal experiences:
The Guys Who Stopped to Help. One night not long ago, I blew out a tire and stopped to change it. Even though I stopped under a street light, it was still dark, still hard to see, and I drive a pretty large vehicle. While many people drove past, two complete strangers — for no reason at all — stopped to make sure I didn’t need any help. One even stayed and used the headlights on his vehicle to give me enough light to change the tire more easily.
As we talked, he told me about his family (they were out of town), we talked about our jobs, and a local celebrity who lived nearby. Despite the fact that it was a holiday weekend, and he probably had way more interesting things to do, he stayed until I finished putting the spare tire on, and — once we both laughed about how dirty my hands were — we fist-bumped a parting thanks. He had no ulterior motive, there was nothing “in it” for him, he just wanted to help. And he did.
The Plymouth Township Little Caesars Guy. Ever try to get two cheese pizzas at 10:00AM? That’s what my wife was trying to do for my daughter’s last day of school pizza party. Problem is, there aren’t any pizza places typically open that early in the day.
Nevertheless, my wife called the night before, and asked if they were open that early. The employee, once he told her they weren’t, asked what she needed: in this case, two cheese pizzas (apparently, 9-year-olds aren’t strong for toppings). After a brief pause, the guy told my wife that, even though the store wasn’t open, if she stopped by at 10AM, he’d have the pizzas ready for her. No additional charges, no ostentatious windage about opening early, just someone going out of his way to help someone get pizzas to a school party. And because he did, we will be customers at the Little Caesar’s on the corner of Sheldon and Plymouth Road for the foreseeable future.
The Plymouth Home Depot team. Yes, I know, they’re trained to provide good customer service. But it’s one thing to go through the motions, and quite another to come across as genuine. I’m there quite often (as my house is constantly falling apart), and I can’t recall a single visit where someone didn’t greet me, ask me if I needed anything, and offer assistance when I asked.
In fact, it’s gone beyond simply acting friendly. I’ve discussed plumbing problems with their plumbing expert, who saved me a lot of time and money with his advice. I’ve discussed painting needs with their paint consultants, who helped me avoid mistakes. In fact, whenever I’ve had a home improvement problem, I’ve always found someone on staff who was able to help me, even when it meant spending less at their store. They don’t have to go the extra mile, but they do… and I appreciate it.
The “bee guy.” Yes, I have a honeybee infestation in my house — a large hive. Tom, who works for Pest Masters in Livonia, came out to get rid of them. Not only did he answer my endless supply of questions with patience and insight, but he took the time to teach me a few things about honeybees (all of which were disconcerting, considering they are living in the walls of my house).
But perhaps the thing about Tom I remember most is what he DIDN’T say about a competitive pest control company we had used previously. Once he heard we had used them, he went out of his way to explain why a) they were a very good company, and b) their lack of success wasn’t a reflection on the company, just the severity of my infestation. He could have easily taken a cheap shot at a competitor, but didn’t. He took the time to explain everything, told me about his own beekeeping challenges, and offered a referral for the inevitable drywall repairs that will result from removing the bees and their hive.
I know none of these people personally. And yes, a more jaundiced eye might see, in the case of the business examples, employees simply demonstrating “customer service.” But I don’t think so. I see examples of customer service every day, in which people follow the script of acting friendly and helpful while their attitude, body language and overall demeanor scream “leave me alone.” Authenticity can be seen by going beyond the job description: going int0 work early (to make a pizza!), showing patience and kindness when no one’s watching, demonstrating integrity when it may even run counter to your own business interests.
It’s little instances like these that confirm for me that there are many, many good people still in this world, even if they’re not covered in the news. They’re all around us, if we choose to look for them. Recognizing that fact reminds me that doing things for others, whether it’s helping change a tire, offering a kind word, or helping someone just for the sake of doing so makes the world that much better and brighter.
And maybe others will feel that way too.
Until next time…