I recently received a multi-workshop contract with one particular organization in Sudbury which took me to “nickel town” for a few days in early June and because I was so touched by the warmth and friendliness of the people there, I feel compelled to write this blog entry as a love letter to a small northern Ontario town that reminded me that the feeling of separation that exists in a “certain large city in southern Ontario” isn’t the status quo and that in the midst of this crazy world, there are still many good folks out there.
Aside from delivering awesome workshops, I came to you with the smaller goal of giving a stranger a gift certificate for a local restaurant/bed and breakfast that I was given last Christmas. As I sat on the little dash-8 plane headed north, I started wondering who would be that extra-nice person that would benefit from my random act of kindness. What I didn’t know was that choosing amongst the MANY extra-nice people was going to be the actual task ahead of me.
My time in your city was mostly spent working, but when I was out and about before and after my sessions, I enjoyed lovely encounter after lovely encounter with the people who worked at the places I shopped and ate at. By the second day, I began to wonder if I would give my gift to the really friendly lady at Tim Hortons or the really friendly lady at Staples or the really friendly waitresses at the couple of restaurants where I had dinner. I had quite the dilemma on my hands because everyone was so damn nice. As I made my way around buying coffee, getting last minute materials, and enjoying meals, I was continually having conversations with people who talked to me with a staggering amount of warmth, sincerity, and get this, humour! These people didn’t take themselves and their jobs too seriously – I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Every conversation I had involved giant smiles and hearty laughs like we knew each other on some other kind of level well beyond “merchant” and “customer”. If Justin Timberlake brought sexy back, you, dear Sudbury, are bringing humanity back. I know it never left you, but it has left the building in many bigger cities. My hope is that more people who live in places where the culture of separation and humourless, robotic exchanges are “just the way it is” will come to you and be as inspired to bring humanity back to the larger city they live in. We ARE all in this together and connected by the sheer fact that we’re all floundering around having this human experience, and it was so good to be in a place where that is either consciously or unconsciously lived out in daily interactions.
After three days of doing workshops to groups of people that I wanted to hug at the end of the day (I don’t always want to hug the groups I work with), it was time to pack up and leave you. Just as I decided to head over to the Tim Hortons to execute my now monumental random act of kindness, the universe had another plan. As I was on my way down to the front desk to check out, the elevator doors on my hotel floor opened and there stood the lady who had been cleaning my room for the past few days. In her polyester dress and white running shoes, she flashed me a big smile (of course she did) and immediately made the effort to get her cart out of my way so I could wheel my suitcase around her to get on the elevator. TA – DAH! I handed the gift certificate to her. As she took the envelope, she smiled even bigger, her eyes welled up with tears and she said, “I never get to go anywhere – thank you so much!” Like I said, I could have given this gift to many people, but I was so pleased with the choice the universe made. Perfection once again.
So, Sudbury, until we meet again, don’t go changing and here’s hoping we folks who live in a “certain large city in southern Ontario” do. Here’s hoping we make a shift from separation to connection and live that out in our daily interactions. Here’s hoping we start talking to each other like we are all in this together. Here’s hoping we realize we don’t have to take ourselves and our work so seriously. In fact, if we could lighten up and smile a little bit more to people don’t know, we could leave an impression on visitors like the one you left on me.
What a wonderful and simple way to live out our common purpose here on earth: to be extra-nice to each other.