Friday, February 8, 2013

On Being Nice and Feeling Special...

(Note:  I apologize for all the hyperlink ads.  I'm trying to figure out how to remove them.  Sorry!!)


Everyone is talking about “Random Acts of Kindness” and “Pay It Forward” these days.  It seems that we have forgotten how to just be nice to people and do the right thing. 

Working in the Promo and Trade Show Industry, we shouldn’t have to be reminded to be nice to people or to do something that makes someone feel special.  Being nice is our JOB.  Making each person we see at an event feel special is the most important part of our job description.  The day I have to be reminded to be nice to people is the day I need to hang up my 7” stilettos. 

Last week I worked for a fantastic client, The New York Times, at MacWorld.  Our booth was crazy busy, as we were doing free “word portraits” where we snap a picture and through the miracle of computer technology, it turns the portrait into a series of words from the headlines that The New York Times has in their massive database.  You can click A Word Cloud Portrait for the story.

It was the end of the first day and we were closing up shop.  A group of three people came up to me and asked if I would do one more print.  The two women smiled that kind of smile that says, “I know you are closed, but please, please, please, make an exception for us.”  I looked at the young man next to them and knew I had to say yes.

One look at the young man, and I could tell that he fit in the “special needs” category.  I won’t go into the details except to say that my heart opened up and I immediately made the decision to do the picture.  As soon as I motioned the three of them to get in the remainder of the line, the women said, “No, just him.  We know you are closing for the day and don’t want to get you in trouble.  Everyone else was so mean to us today in all the other booths, and it is so nice of you to let him get his picture done, we can’t ask for any more of your time than is minimally necessary.” 

Minimally necessary?  To do something so small to take one minute of my time?  No.  That won’t do.  This young man is getting every last little bit of time that I have, because making him smile is now the Number One priority for my last ten minutes on-shift.

I snapped the picture and asked the women from what sections of The New York Times I should generate the Word Cloud.  They said Sports.  I was still learning the software and hadn’t had some time to really play around with it, so I figured that now was a good as any time to dive right in. 

“What kind of sports?  Any particular team?”  I asked.

“He loves basketball, particularly professional,” they responded.

Done.  I typed it in, pushed the enter button and let the iPad do its magic.

The software generated his picture with all kinds of various NBA teams, players, and coaches, and we decided to put the words in his favorite color, blue.

Two minutes later, the portrait printed, I handed it over, thanked them again for coming by the booth and got ready to start packing up.

The ladies gave the portrait to the young man, and he lit up like the New Years Eve Ball dropping in Times Square.  He seemed to recognize himself and the names on his portrait and started clapping and grinning ear to ear.

YAY!!  That was fun!  Woo-hoo!

Thinking that I was done for the day, I packed up my things and grabbed my coat.  As I was leaving the booth, an older woman came over to me, grabbed my hand and nearly in a whisper said, “That picture you just took was for my son.  I’m sorry I couldn’t make it over here to do the picture with him.  He has Downs Syndrome and the only thing that he can really recognize and focus on is basketball.  He loves basketball!  Thank you so much for making our day!  You really made us feel special!!”

She gave me a little squeeze and went back over to her son.

Definitely worth it.

I thought about it for a few days, and wondered if I had really done anything special to deserve such a big Thank You.  No.  Not really.  I did my job.  I did what I love to do, which is smile at everyone I see and make each person who visits my client’s booth feel special.  Feeling special is not just for those I think are deserving, or who are extra polite, or who beg me with three “please, please, pleases” so that I say yes.  You don’t take the time to make some people feel special because you identify that they have a disability, need extra time, look like they had a bad day…whatever.  You try your best to make EACH person you come in contact with feel special, well, because each person IS special.

But what really got to me was me wondering why everyone else was so mean to these people?  Why is it so difficult to see that each person needs to be respected and treated like an individual, a human being, and yes—special.  After all, each of us is unique in our own little ways, and each of us likes to feel special, so why has it become so hard for us to recognize that need and act accordingly?  Do we not remember The Golden Rule?  It truly saddens me sometimes to see how far we have strayed from being truly genuine to each other and treat those around us like we would like to be treated. 

Doing the right thing or doing something nice for someone else isn’t something that you should have to be reminded to do.  It should just happen naturally.  And in my business, as the all-too-important First Impression of a company, it is your JOB.  EVERY person who walks by the booth is special.  EVERY person deserves a smile, a nod, and your respect.

Sometimes I think we have lost what it means to be human.  


Thank you to The New York Times for giving me the opportunity to not only have a blast at work making money at a really cool gig, but thank you for the opportunity to make someone’s day.  Because at the end of the day when the lights are turned off, the carpet is rolled up, the boxes are packed and shipped…at the end of the day, all that really matters is that I made someone smile.  And, boy did he ever!!  I’ll never forget that day.

Life is Good!  Life is better when being nice just happens…


  1. You're a real great writer Jennifer. And quite the inspiration!

  2. Jennifer you touched on a great subject today. As you put it, in this industry being nice IS our JOB. No client would pay good money to have consumers walk to their booth and be mean to them, that is just not what we are sent to do. Even if we weren't getting paid to do this, how hard is it to smile at a stranger and just be NICE?? We are all so consumed by our own lives that we've forgotten what it is like to interact with others, how what we say and do can affect those around us. This was a lovely story, one that reminds me and I hope others of how great of a career we have, to have the opportunity to make others smile by simply doing our jobs of being NICE :)