Author: Donna-Marie Rowe
Government leaders in the Western world have been at pains to give credit to the nurses, doctors, health aides, sanitisation engineers and everyone who is trying to save lives at this time. These heroes beat the fear and strain to bring hope to homes by caring for COVID-19 patients. And that is a good strategy, to eulogise and laud them. This calls our attention away from the temptation to discriminate and engage in a fearful scramble when we see our neighbor, friend or relative who is serving at the nearby health facility. Unfortunately, discrimination in this crisis is real.
Consequently, the media has served up pictures of grateful communities applauding workers who otherwise, would have been invisible. We get goosebumps watching how humans have put away their differences and have come together to orchestrate their applause. We stand at attention and watch in awe, the collective salute to the health workers’ courage, bravery and sacrifice to turn up and care for the wave of COVID-19 patients sweeping their hospitals. What’s painful is the feeling of helplessness which they must feel as they lose patient after patient. This is the reason we see snippets of celebrations when a patient recovers as health care workers pause to appreciate each other in the midst of the crisis.
Who would have thought that appreciation could be so nurturing to the human soul?
Curiously these scenes remind me of an experience. I was on a business trip and this can be heady stuff. I just flew in. Happily my bags came with me and my mind was buzzing with all the preparations that had to be made overnight so that I could turn up early, bright eyed and bushy tailed for our first meeting of participants in a leadership development session. You know how it is when one is living out of a suitcase on a business trip. Some of us are uber organized. Everything has to be packed out no matter what time the flight landed. Suits ironed and coordinated. Cosmetics located and so on. Others of us are not so structured. We are lucky if we can find our hair brush. What am I saying? Our toothbrush, right?
My first morning arrived and I am uber organized, thank God. Everything in its place and a place for everything. When I returned to my room later that evening, there was a note from my room attendant who left one of the hotel’s luxury bathrobes “for me to enjoy”. I was pleasantly surprised. And I scribbled a response and said, “Thank you for your kind gesture”.
The second morning, this student of leadership principles goes about her routine: prays, stretches, makes the bed, fluffs the pillows, puts away trash where they belong and you know…everything in its place and a place for everything…and trots off to class. At the end of the long and grueling day, there is another surprise. This time a longer note. I wasn’t sure what qualified me for this favour but a friend once told me, “When God is favouring you girl, don’t question it or try to give it back!” Haha. I scribbled “Ta” (short for thank you) and rushed out to an evening meeting for group work.
The third morning, I woke late but with the routine I built up, I delivered the ‘everything in its place’ job superbly and guess what? I was greeted with a sachet of chocolate mix and another note:
“It’s my pleasure. Thank you for being so clean and tidy. People like you make my job so much easier. Hope you enjoy everything. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.” Brandi. Smiley face.
I couldn’t believe what I just read. Could my efforts in maintaining my morning routine have such an impact? I sat and enjoyed the hot chocolate brew that she gifted me and settled in for the night reflecting on the virtue of valuing others and perceiving that this was indeed a lesson in leadership, self-management, and appreciation. I appreciated my room attendant and the job she did and she appreciated me. I drifted off to sleep remembering a profound talk which was delivered by Admiral William McRaven:
“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
In the morning I left her a bar of chocolate with a note of gratitude and dashed out to meet my facilitators and fellow students. At the end of another long and tiring day of collecting leadership tools, I looked forward to the solace of my room and to see if there would be a note from my Room Attendant. I was enjoying this as I had never experienced anything like this before. Sure enough there was another note. My room attendant was courteous. This one read:
“Mrs. Rowe, I am glad you enjoyed everything. Thank you for the chocolate bar.” Brandi
I just noticed. She took the time to find out my name. Wow! I was leaving in the morning and Brandi carved out the time in her busy cleaning schedule to meet me. “Oh my! You are Brandi?! Thank you for being so kind.” “I am happy to finally meet you Mrs. Rowe.” I wished I could have given her more than a tip and told her so. And while I didn’t have either silver or gold, I offered her what I had…the love of God and told her that the Lord Jesus loves her. She thanked me, obviously encouraged and I ran off with my bags to catch my flight.
The world is watching how we treat these frontline sanitation workers in the crisis. And the world is taking its cue from leaders. If as leaders we don’t highlight their sacrifice and demonstrate that we value them in tangible ways, then discrimination, fear and hate will quickly set in. I saw on social media where a nurse received a discount from a supermarket just because…she was a nurse serving at this time. She was brought to tears because she had had a harrowing day of families being upset and patients lost.
Brandi taught me that small gestures and efforts can do a world of good in making someone feel valued. The security guards at work remind me of this too. How are we making people’s lives easier today? How are we making a difference through our interactions with those who serve us? Once again, I find that appreciation nurtures the human soul. Who will you appreciate today?
Share ways in which you show appreciation.
Update to the original post: I received permission from The Prince George Hotel, Halifax, Nova Scotia to publish the pics which featured the hotel’s name. Thank you to the General Manager, Scott Travis and Director, HR, Carol Logan who gave the approval. Wonderful team.
Donna-Marie Rowe has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) since 2009 and is the recipient of the prestigious RJRGleaner Honour Award 2019 for Public Service for her inspiring leadership of the JIS, managing its transformation into a modernized government agency.