I was driving my daughter to dance class this week when we hit a stop light at a pretty major intersection in town. My kids quickly noticed a young man standing on the corner holding a sign advertising $5 pizzas. As we watched the kid with the sign,we all grew amazed as he started using it to play air guitar, hold his arms out like a plane while spinning in circles, thrust the sign above his head and jump up and down. At one point he even twirled the sign on his fingertip like a basketball! The light turned green and the kids let out an “oh, man” when the van started moving, and they lost sight of the enthusiastic advertiser.
Dance ended an hour later and we drove through the exact same intersection to go to the grocery store. The young man was still there, as energetic and entertaining as he was an hour ago. My kids excitedly watched him again for those brief moments as we passed.
Fast forward another hour. A trunk full of groceries. A red light on a now “exciting” corner. As we sat and watched this young man put all of his energy and effort into advertising $5 pizzas, I couldn’t help but notice how happy he looked. So, even though I had a trunk full of groceries and plenty I could make for dinner, the kids and I pulled in to the parking lot.
The pizza place was packed. I placed my order and made sure to mention that it was their enthusiastic employee on the corner who drew me in. The cashier grinned and said, “You are about the tenth person who has told me that tonight!”
As we drove home with our pizza in tow, I couldn’t help but think about that young man. Admittedly, I have made judgments about jobs like his before, thinking about how bored I would be to stand on a corner, holding a sign, advertising a sale. But here’s the thing – this kid was anything but bored. He was putting his heart and soul into his work – work that others may not see as difficult or important – and people were noticing him for it.
What are the things in your work that seem mundane? Unimportant? Unexciting? Grading papers, taking attendance, making photocopies, reporting to cafeteria/bus/hallway duty? There are parts to all of our jobs that we would happily give away, but in each aspect of our work, there is opportunity. When people see the passion, heart, and soul you put in to all of your work, they will appreciate you for it. Don’t believe me?
The feedback you write on a student’s paper reminds them that they really CAN do the work, and they make the decision to persevere and keep engaging in school.
The attendance secretary absolutely loves that she never has to chase you down for incomplete records. Her job is made easier because you care enough to do yours.
The friendly conversation you have with a colleague at the copy machine boosts his spirits and keeps him energized for his afternoon classes.
Those non-academic conversations with kids during cafeteria/bus/hallway duty help them see you as a trusted adult and continue to remind you of the real reason you entered the profession.
You see, when we choose to give ourselves wholeheartedly to all aspects of our work, the people around us cannot help but be drawn in. So go ahead – share a smile, pay a compliment, listen to a colleague, put a sticker on a high school student’s essay, hand out high fives in the hallway. When you love what you do, let it shine. Just like that kid advertising pizza on the corner, people will take notice, and find it hard to resist joining in.