Friday, June 12, 2009

Together We Are Beautiful

I love the moments with Dr. James Dobson on my local radio station. In just a few minutes, he offers wsdom and advice on parenting and relationships, that I often find uplifting and insightful.

Recently he shared the story of a grocery store that underwent a social experiment of sorts. The store manager challenged his employees to come up with their own personal signature and use it to improve customer relations.

Nicholas, a bagger with Down Syndrome, took the instructions to heart. The next morning he came to work with a stack of notecards. The front of each card featured a thought for the day, and Nicholas had signed the back. He put a card in each customer’s bag.

A few days later, the manager of the store noticed a long line at one of the registers. He opened another lane, but the customers refused to move. They wanted to have their groceries bagged by Nicholas, because they wanted one of his notes. One customer said she came in every day, just so she could have a new note.

News of what Nicholas had done, and the customer’s reaction, spread through the store. Soon the florist was handing out a carnation to each customer that walked past. The butcher put snoopy stickers on each of his packages of meat.

In a short period of time, the environment of the store changed from something mundane to something extraordinary—an experience that customers loved and returned again and again to enjoy. All because its employees sought to discover who they were, and to share the gift of themselves with everyone who came into the store.

Far too often we hold ourselves apart. We hide our light under a bushel, if you remember that old Sunday School song. And what are we saving ourselves, our light, for? And if we are saving ourselves, will we recognize our moment to shine, when it comes?

Like Grandma’s precious china that goes unused over a lifetime because no moment is special enough to warrant its use, it’s possible our own best selves may also be wasted.

For any of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you know I have issues with being myself. I am constantly worried that myself simply isn’t good enough, that if a friend knew the real me, they’d be sorely disappointed. Who am I, after all, if not just me? Just me, is not that special. Just me is insecure, sometimes lonely, sometimes unsure of my beliefs or who I really am.

But, to be fair . . . there is more.

Just me is loving, kind and generally thoughtful. Just me has spiritual gifts that bless my life and have, on occasion, blessed the lives of others. Just me has learned to treasure love, to cherish it.Just me can often recognize the beauty in others, even if I don’t always see it in myself.

So what would happen to the world at large if all of us sought to share ourselves, to let our lights shine? It doesn’t have to be in spectacular acts of selfless generosity, it can be as simple as a thoughtful note, like Nicholas did, or a sticker of our favorite cartoon character shared with some neighborhood kids. What would happen if we told the people we met that they were beautiful? Or told a mom, when we have overheard her talking to her child, that we were touched by the love we saw there?

Would we be shunned? Pushed away? Possibly.

But would we make a difference? Almost certainly.

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

After a lifetime of feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere, I’ve recently discovered that I do have a place. There are people, strangely, who are willing to love me and accept me. And they are desirable friends, they are people I admire and for whom I have so much respect.

But there’s a catch.

If I want to keep these friends and be worthy of their friendship in return, I cannot hide my light under a bushel. I need to shine. Because in letting my light shine, I reflect the light of others, and together we are beautiful.