[Note: I originally wrote this on ServiceSpace feed.]
The idea of using Smile Cards sounded really good the moment I heard of it. It sounded fun. It took me a while before I actually used a Smile Card, or as the card says, I tagged someone.
I decided to tag someone first time while walking into a Panera Bread. My idea was to buy a Panera gift card right there at the counter along with my coffee, and request person taking orders, Maria, to give it to person right after me. As soon as I reached front of the line, my heart for some reason started pounding.
“Relax Deven… all you are doing is giving a nice anonymous gift to someone.” I told myself.
It didn’t help a bit at that moment. I gave a nervous look to person behind me, and she was a lady probably in her twenties; she gave me an infectious smile. That helped. I felt tagged by her before I could tag her.
I thought … “Boy, now she knows me. I would love to see her go to the other counter next to me. That way my card would go to person behind her.”
My prayer was answered. I coerced myself not to look at who that next person is behind her.
“Would you do me a favor? Would you pass this on to next person that comes to you for order?” I had placed the gift card and a Smile Card in a nice gift jacket that they give with a gift card.
“Why is that?” Maria asked.
“Because I want to feel good…”
“Oh, that is awesome…!”
I added in a very tense low voice, “Whoever that is, doesn’t need to know that I am the one that gave it.”
I ran from there. Even though coffee was right behind me, it had to wait. I went to the backside to get water. Water was an excuse to disappear from the scene.
I didn’t know what happened after that. I got my water. Drank it slowly in food pick up area chair… once sure that person must have left the scene by now, I went to fill my cup of coffee and started walking out to my car. On my way, I looked at Maria. Her eyes were clearly waiting for me.
Maria gave me a big SMILE. Eyes and face have amazing ways to express heart when there is connection to it. Maria’s SMILE is a keeper.
I knew my tagging worked.
There was something more to Maria’s smile though – she looked very happy.
I learned that I have a tagging muscle – ever so weak and flimsy… I could put it to work …it felt good.
The happy feeling definitely carried rest of the day.
While talking about it with Bela, Nilay and my mom on dinner table that night, I was thinking out loud, “Why was I tense? What was the big deal?”
We got interrupted by a door bell and the routine of the night caught on.
While brushing my teeth the next day in front of mirror, the answer popped from inside, “It’s because you never know how it will be received. It’s a step towards getting, feeling connected to a stranger.”
Not one of my fortes for sure.
I had a customer meeting. So, I drove that morning. While parking the car, I felt a little more oomph to sport a smile to stranger parking his car next to me. I looked at him with just a bit longer eye contact than usual and smiled.
He SMILED back.
Life is good…
A couple of days later, I went to Starbucks. (I am working on my coffee addiction, too … a story for another day …
Here I was again, bought the gift card, put it in the jacket, got a smile card from my wallet and requested the person taking order to give it to person she would see next.
She replied with a smile, and “Sure…”
I was waiting for my café latte; it was a busy morning at Starbucks. It took about good 5 min before I got the drink.
It turned out that lady was doubling up as barista as well. (It’s amazing how bubbly and energetic and enthusiastic servers at Starbucks are, they literally run around in such a small crowded space behind the counter in a symphony… they rotate roles in what seems to me an organized chaos … maybe it’s the “Starbucks” thing … and a story for another day… :).
She gave me the drink. There is more though…she had a reason to give me a big SMILE as well, “You know three people after you took your gift card and paid it forward.”
It felt really good. Again, lightness of moments at Starbucks buoyed my rest of the day.
A week passed by. We had a little mishap at home. A pipe in 1st floor bathroom vanity area burst swamping all of first floor with water. While working at 5:30 AM in the morning on dining table with headset on, I sensed something funny underneath my feet. (I am an early bird) I looked down and there was water. Before we can shut down the water, our entire first floor was covered in a couple of inches of water.
They ripped the floor, cut dry wall, put the blowers to dry it all up… felt relief when we sat down at P F Chang’s end of the long day – forget everything for a moment, and eat something. We were hungry. We were tired.
By this time, Nilay has heard enough of stories with Smile Cards. He is navigating through his weekly themes of ServiceSpace internship. And this week, he was warming up to Smile Cards.
“Let’s tag someone.”
Bela and I were showing signs of exhaustion nearing end of an “interesting” day, “okaaayyy … “
There was more silence than anything else that day. We wanted to eat something and crash.
But, idea felt good. Bela said, “Let’s tip something special to the waiter.”
Nilay, “That’s good.”
“But wait, this has to be unanimous.” Nilay added.
I said, “Maybe give it to another waiter, and ask him to give it to another waiter.”
It sounded too complicated, as soon as I said it. Nobody cared enough that day to think too much about anything leave alone sanity of my thoughts.
Food helped. Quiet time helped.
While going out, Nilay said, “Do you have $5 bill?”
“Let me check. Yes, I think I have one.”
“Can I use it for tagging?”
Handed him the bill… Wanted to go home, so making it faster was the theme of the moment.
Nilay has ways with art – he somehow always surprises me. He took a rubber band from Bela. In 10 seconds he put the card and bill together in a way, only he knows how to.
While walking out, Nilay handed out his “artistic package” to reception girl at the front. “Can you give this to that waiter?” pointing at him.
“Oh, to him…?”
“Yes, please. If you want to know what I am doing, here it is.” Nilay handed her one more Smile Card.
While walking outside, Nilay looked at her from the glass window that was open … “She was looking at me, and talking with the other girl. AND she SMILED at me.” Nilay beamed with a big SMILE on his face.
We could definitely put SMILES to use that night.
Home was finally dried up after 4 days. We had a vacation planned, and so repairs would have to wait till we come back.
Here we were in our Trip to Canada. Vancouver was fun.
We went to Victoria and Whistler. All around there, we saw fascinating Totem Poles. (What a way for aborigines to tell stories using carvings on cedar wood totem poles – what an art, how creative … a lot to say about it … one more story for a different day …)
While having a lunch at the café, idea of Smile Cards hit us again…“Let’s do it.”
“Here is a $10 bill.” I mentioned to the girl behind the counter.
She was confused. My Indian roots came to the rescue. I also had picked up a bit of Canadian English by now.
“Oh, I know your bill is different for my order. I will pay it separately right now, off course. Would you give this $10 and this card to whoever that enters in next?”
The girl behind the counter looked at it, thought about it, paused for a bit and then looked at me and said, “Ok”.
It took me a few minutes to realize… that I might have put her on the spot.
Nilay, “She hasn’t given it yet.”
Bela, “Don’t worry. Let’s leave it up to her. We did our part. Let’s figure way to Edith Caval Mountain while waiting for our food.” She got the map out for the Jasper National Park.
We dived in to the maps to see how best to navigate stunningly beautiful Jasper National Park.
After a few minutes, Nilay said, “She keeps looking at it, but not giving it to anyone. She also showed it to her friend.”
I was thinking, “Not one of my smart acts of the day.”
Food finally arrived.
The same girl stopped by to give our sandwiches. We looked at her, and she SMILED. That felt better; she was in it all along; it took her a bit to come to grips with it.
A couple of minutes later, she gave it to a couple probably in their 50’s.
That lady took the card and money in her hand, sat at table next to us. First thing she did was check the card out inside out… showed it to her husband and finally put it in her purse. I felt like I never gave that kind of attention to a Smile Card.
We headed out to the Edith Caval Mountain. The view of glacier and lake there is breathtaking.
Our flooring was completed after the trip. We got our home back. These all put smiles on our face. And so did the SMILES we got from the Smile Cards.
A couple of weeks before vacation, we had spotted kindness act of the week in weekly email – give a gift of a plant to a couple of people. It made it to our TO-DO list.
While swinging by Home Depot to look at paint colors for the home, we picked up a couple of small, beautiful flower plants – pot was about 6 inches tall with a nice paper wrapper around it, and plant in there going a few more inches above it. (I sometimes wonder how they can have literally thousands of plants there with each one having amazing colors and hues with leaves and flowers.) We scotch taped Smart Card on each plant. We walked around in the neighborhood and left it at front door of a couple of people we didn’t know.
We hope, wish and pray that plants are growing and flowers are adding colors.
In the mean time SMILES of the Smile Cards are bringing a full spectrum of colors to all of us at home.