The Ripple of Other People’s Lists

I want to tell you about something wonderful that happened yesterday.

I was passing the doorway to Michael’s office and noticed him smiling. This is not unusual: he’s a fairly cheerful person to live with, but there was something special about the look on his face. He was leaned in toward one of his computer screens with his chin on his clasped hands, and there was a look of deep happiness on his face. I know our site at a glance, so I knew where he was generally, but I didn’t recognize the work under way and asked, “What’s up?”

“You remember that call I was on for a while yesterday? This is the result. All of these people (scrolling through a long list of names and addresses) are getting this note and a package to thank them for their business, for their cooperation, that sort of thing. All these people are just a little happier, maybe smiling, and thinking well of the person who sent them this note, this picture. We helped make that happen in the lives of people we don’t even know.”

 He looked deeply into my eyes and smiled warmly.

“We get to do that. We do that.”

I looked at the list, at the messages, at a cute image, and I smiled, too.

You need to understand that I grew up in retail. From babyhood to the present, I’ve sold a variety of stuff from physical goods to services. So has Michael. In my formative experiences, people mostly got their pencils, panties, or plumbing parts, I got money, and that was an end to it. Even in our accounting sales days, the happy factor was evanescent. Michael always had his best results when he went out into the world to save people’s businesses. That was a noble come-from. One interaction at a time, though, it took real mental discipline to sustain.

This experience, by contrast, meant assisting one person to do the right thing and thus creating a ripple of good feelings moving outward to places and people we will never know.

That’s a lot less heavy emotional lifting than pushing pencils or payroll services. That makes the practice a lot more sustainable, too.

Looking at the long list of people and places we don’t know, we pictured the day the package and card arrived there, the smile of surprise on the recipient’s face, and what those people then were like in their interactions with people in their world – who we also don’t know – for the rest of that day. In terms of emotional impact for the day’s work, that’s a much longer reach than we ever had from our other commercial offerings.

I think that’s pretty wonderful.