By Lisa Sugarman
So let me tell you a story.
There’s no nudity, hardly any profanity, and little to no blood. Why tell the story then? Because not everything is about boobies, severed heads, and the “f” word. You need to be more open minded. This is a story about perception. About attitude. And about how something as simple as someone’s mood can be so very, very profound.
Now as usual, names have been changed to protect the innocent. I’m a lot like Woodward. Or maybe it was Bernstein. Suffice it to say that the identity of the person involved is really pretty irrelevant anyway. It’s the story itself that’s important.
We’re eating dinner, Dave and I, last Friday night at Palmers when a friend of mine who works there points across the bar to a woman who looks vaguely familiar and says the woman was just talking about me. Really? Oh damn. This can’t be good. The unexpected twist, though, is that apparently, the woman told her that I’m the nicest person she’s ever met. Not one of…the nicest. So of course I do one of those looking-over-each-of-my-shoulders moves as though she must be talking about the woman sitting at the high top behind me. But my friend says the woman knows exactly who I am and that I’m the person she’s talking about.
Ok, so almost instantaneously, the black and tan beer that Dave’s drinking starts bubbling up out of his nose because the laughter and the beer just aren’t compatible in his throat. Not nice, babe. Not nice. To which I respond by just nervously giggling because clearly this woman couldn’t possibly be talking about me.
The full story, as it was told to us, is that her daughter is a fourth grader at the Village School where I work in the office, and apparently, earlier this month, she came into the school to drop something off for her daughter and we had a brief exchange. A very brief but I guess impactful exchange.
It was at this point that I put down my knife and fork and really started paying attention to what she was saying, because while I remember meeting her, I have absolutely no recollection of the specifics of our conversation. Although from what I was told, it wasn’t even our conversation or what I did to help her that stuck in her mind. It was my attitude that left the mark on her.
Now you have to understand that I find it very difficult to tell this story without sounding or feeling incredibly self-serving. And I’m not a fan of conceited people as a general rule, so it’s very hard for me to write about this. But the only redemption in my doing it is that I feel pretty confident that there are enough of you out there who know me well enough to know that my only reason for telling the story is to make a point. And hopefully a point that will turn around and leave a mark on you, too. The fact that I’m the main character in the story is just an inconvenient and slightly awkward detail. Ok, horrendously awkward.
That being said, the woman went on to say that it was the fact that I clearly loved my job so much that resonated so strongly with her. That and that I just seemed so damn happy. And even more, that I seemed so truly excited to help the people around me and make them happy, too. And she’s right. Because quite honestly, very little gives me more pleasure than making someone else happy. And while I full realize that that makes me look and seem rather Girl Scoutish, it really is true. I’m redick, I know. But it’s who I am.
I’m an ardent believer that attitude, and attitude alone, can make or break your life. Because in spite of the fact that we can’t control other peoples’ attitudes, we’re very much in control of our own. And the attitude we choose to project will very definitely shape the course of your life. And, ironically, the lives of the people around you.
Take my mother. She’s the best example of the happiest, most content person I’ve ever known. And for all intents and purposes, she could’ve easily been the best example of the foulest person I’ve ever known, considering the hand she was dealt in life. She was unexpectedly widowed at age forty and left with a ten-year-old daughter to raise on a part-time secretary’s salary. She had plenty of things to complain about, yet I never heard a negative word come out of her mouth that I can remember. Alright, wait, that’s not exactly true. She has been known to flip a bit of a nutty when she misplaces something, running around the house with her teeth clenched, ranting that someone couldn’t possibly be that stupid to lose the keys they just had in their hand. Other than that, she’s sweeter than sugar.
My point in saying all this is that, clearly, my mother’s attitude is what helped shape mine. I learned early on from her that if I made a conscious effort to be positive and see the upside of things it would not only influence me and my attitude but the attitude of the people around me.
I remember watching how people always reacted to her. How people were always drawn to her. Like a little happy magnet. Still are. And how she almost always managed to radiate this happiness that usually infected everyone around her. And I loved that. Still do. And I wanted that because I loved the idea of having that kind of positive influence over someone’s mood. It was so simple. Almost dumb. But very, very powerful.
And so apparently, this woman I met at my reception window saw how happy I was that day we met and it made her feel happy, too. I know it sounds almost a little too corny to stomach, but it’s really as simple as that.
What I didn’t know, though, was her backstory. And why meeting someone, at that exact moment in her life, who was so happy, was so impactful to her. What I didn’t know was that she and her daughter were brand new to Marblehead and she was feeling very uncertain about her move. She didn’t know anyone, was feeling vulnerable and isolated and alone and was going through a challenging time in her life. And it was something as simple as me being happy and friendly that helped shift something in her.
It helped her feel somehow less alone, less cranky, less sad. It made her see that sometimes all it takes to be happy is finding a reason to be and forcing yourself to stick with it. After that, the rest usually falls into place. Isn’t it funny how sometimes the simplest things are the ones we overlook the most. Go figure.