A Cheerful Lesson From an Underground Worker

Macy's 1987 Thanksgiving Parade

Ever feel unappreciated? Ever wonder if anyone notices your efforts? I’m sure all of us have felt that way at one time or another. But the years have taught me that even little actions can make a big difference to the people we encounter. So when I’m meandering toward self-pity over the latest what-does-it-matter challenge, I remember a long-ago elevator operator.

A couple of years after my husband’s death, my two young teens and I moved an hour north of New York City—and 800 miles away from all that was familiar—so I could join the editorial staff at a Christian magazine. At the end of our first year there, we ventured down to Broadway to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In the past, the colorful floats, numerous marching bands and giant balloons such as Superman and Garfield had been part of our Thanksgiving mornings but only through TV. That day, we enjoyed being with thousands of other families who cheered and clapped in the November temperatures. The best part of the day, though, proved to be an enthusiastic subway elevator operator.

Our first few months in the new state had taught us that New Yorkers are used to sharing space whether in cafes or on public transportation, so their usual attitude was one of polite indifference. Thus, as we pushed the button for the elevator, we expected a silent descent to the next level. After all, for long hours each day, the operator is trapped in that box under the city streets, breathing air thick with fumes and dirt. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d been somber or even grumpy as we boarded his elevator. But this man surprised us.

“Hey there!” he said. “I bet y’all had fun at the parade. Where ya from?”

I was startled, but managed to say, “Mount Kisco. About an hour north.”

“Nice little town,” he said as we reached our requested level. As he opened the door, his parting comment was “Y’all come back and visit us again real soon. I love ya.”

We managed to mutter our thanks as we headed toward the subway train. As we walked, we could hear him singing as he strolled in front of the elevator and waited for his next passengers.

Even these years later, I smile that he chose to bring joy instead of grumpiness to those of us who shared his day even for those few minutes. And what a gentle challenge his memory is. What if, instead of fretting about daily irritations, I chose to give the people around me a reason to smile?

You see, I’m convinced our little actions can make a big difference to others. Once we understand that truth, then we can look for ways to put it into action. So, what do you hope others see as they watch you? Yes, moment by moment, we do make a difference.

About sandrapaldrich

Sandra P. Aldrich, author and popular speaker, loves the Lord, family and all things Appalachian. Isaiah 41:9-10
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