About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

11 June 2010

The "Daymaker"

David Wagner is a world-renowned hair stylist, artist, entrepreneur, educator, and "Daymaker." He is the Owner/Daymaker of Juut Salonspas, the original Aveda salons. He defines a daymaker as:
"A person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place."
David has written a book titled Life as a DAYMAKER: How to Change the World Simply by Making Someone's Day. He opens it with a story that set him on his path.
It only takes a moment to make someone's day - to become a daymaker - and sometimes those moments even change lives as I discovered a number of years ago. I was working in my salon one day when a client came in to have her hair styled. I was surprised to see her, since it was right in the middle of her five-week period between hair cuts. I figured that she must have an important social engagement , so I asked her about her evening plans. “I don't have anything special going on,” she told me. “I just want to look and feel good tonight.”

I gave her a great scalp massage, then shampooed and styled her hair. During our 30 minutes together, we joked and laughed. At the end, she smiled radiantly, hugging me goodbye.

A few days later when I received a letter from this client, I began to realize the enormous potential of Daymaking. My client admitted that she had wanted her hair styled so it would look good for her own funeral. She had planned to commit suicide that evening. But the wonderful time she had during our appointment had given her hope that things could get better. She decided to check herself into the hospital and get professional help. She thanked me for caring, even though I hadn't known what she was going through. She wrote “thank you for being there, without knowing that you were.”

I was stunned. I had spent time with this woman about once a month for three years, yet that day I had no inkling she was so distressed. I was glad to have made such a difference, yet the experience left me with an enormous sense of responsibility. What if I had been upset, distracted, or hurried when she came to see me?

That experience made me take stock of myself as a stylist and as a person. How many of the ten clients I saw every day might be in personal crisis that I would never know about? Even if it were only one person a day, I might have no way of knowing who needed some extra attention. I resolved to treat every person I met like that woman. It might sound like a lot of work, but it wasn't hard to have fun with my client that day. It was natural and made my day brighter, too. I vowed to give care and attention to everyone I saw. I figured it would make their day a little better, and who knows, it might save a life.

I still thank my client for the gift of that letter because it changed my life as much as my kindness changed hers. When you realize the difference you can make for others, whether by spending a light-hearted half-hour together, giving them a smile, or simply holding the door open for them, your whole approach to life shifts. Why have random acts of kindness when we can have intentional acts of good will?
I choked up when I first heard that story. Then my thoughts drifted to these words from The Talmud which I believe are absolutely true:
"To save one life is as if you have saved the world."
Finally, I landed on the last sentence of David's story:
"Why have random acts of kindness when we can have intentional acts of good will?"
Intentional. On purpose. Why not give it a try? Pick a day - any day. And for that day, swear an oath to do all you can to make the day of each and every person who crosses your path. Now you'll probably never know the effect you had on the folks you met that day. That's okay. The real question is how did you feel about yourself at day's end? My guess? Good enough to do it again the next day . . . and the next. Keep it up, and it won't be long until daymaking becomes your default option for dealing with people.

There are, of course, folks that seem to be daymakers by nature. One of these was Murray Barr, a homeless man from Reno, Nevada. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article for The New Yorker on Murray titled "Million-Dollar Murray." It's a great read. Here's the link.

  • What struck you most about David Wagner's story? Murray Barr's?
  • Is there a way either or both relate to your life or work either now or back when?
  • Would you like to be a daymaker? If so, how will you make it happen? Further, what are some things you might do to undermine your best intentions?
"When you can do a common thing in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world." - George Washington Carver
"When a man begins to have a vision larger than his own truth...he begins to become conscious of his moral nature." - Rabindranath Tagore
"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning." - J. B. Priestly
"Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They're born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence." - Anthony de Mello, Jesuit Priest
"We need one another when we would be comforted. We need one another when we are in trouble and afraid. We need one another when we are in despair, in temptation, and need to be recalled to our best selves again. We need one another when we would accomplish some great purpose, and cannot do it alone. We need one another in the hour of success, when we look for someone to share our triumphs. We need one another in the hour of defeat, when with encouragement we might endure, and stand again. We need one another when we come to die, and would have gentle hands prepare us for the journey. All our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us." - George Odell, Unitarian Minister
"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

No comments: