Lately, I’ve noticed changes more than I used to. It seems more and more that the ordinary people I come into contact with during my mundane existence are moving on, either into retirement or into the next life. These aren’t famous or newsworthy people, but they are people that mattered to me.
Take for example my dentist, Dr. Gloria Flathman. Dr. Flathman was first my parents’ dentist and then she became my dentist once I had a full set of teeth. From the time I was three-and-a-half years old, I came to see her twice a year. Dr. Flathman watched me grow up. It didn’t occur to me at the time how remarkable it was for a woman to become a dentist in her day. I just knew that she was there as I grew from a child into a teenager, from a teenager to a college student, from a college student to a young woman, then married, then with children of my own. In the file she kept on me for over 40 years--along with my x-rays and other dental records--she had envelopes marking the milestones of my life: My graduation announcements, my wedding invitation, the announcements of the births of each of my children. She was a professional woman who raised her family while running a business. One of her sons, also a dentist, still practices in the office they shared. It has been over a year since Dr. Flathman passed away. Today I went to the office for my regular twice a year cleaning and realized how much I miss her. Dr. Flathman’s existence and our relationship mattered to me.
Another example is Linda. With a hungry, never satisfied, “why-didn’t-you-remember-to-get-us-that-one-other-item” family to feed, I find myself headed to the grocery store almost every day. Although there is a Publix on my route everywhere I travel in Brevard, there are a couple of stores I frequent more often than others. One is the Publix on Babcock Street in Melbourne where in one lane Linda always takes an interest in what I’m making for dinner and what I have done with my hair and what my children are up to. I look forward to going through her line and catching up on what she did for a particular holiday or to tell her about my crock-pot-pizza idea. Yesterday I was shopping at the Babcock Publix and was looking for Linda’s check out lane. Not seeing her, I asked a store manager if she was working that day and learned that Linda had just retired after 30 years on the job. Although I am happy for Linda, I am sorry for me.
Linda made a difference in my life by treating me like a human being and making me feel like I mattered while I did the most basic task of grocery shopping. Every time I checked out with Linda, I left with a smile and a warm feeling of having had a kind interaction with someone who--although may have just been doing her job--made a difference in my life.
The point is that these ordinary run-of-the-mill interactions, no matter how “just-going-along-through-your-day” they are, make an impact. You don’t have to be famous or important in order to make a difference. You don’t have to do anything big, showy, or special. You just have to live your life and do your work as if the people you come in contact with matter.
I hope Dr. Flathman knew that she was a quiet role model and source of inspiration for me as she took care of both me and my teeth and served as a constant in my life.
And Linda, if you are reading this, the pizza in the crockpot idea really did work and I think I’ll keep my hair red for a while longer. I hope you are enjoying your retirement. I miss you.
Dr. Flathman and Linda both touched my life by being there and being kind. I think that may be the most important lesson for all of us to remember.
Who’s life are you touching just by going through your regular duties today? You may be making more of a difference than you realize.