Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Continuous Improvement for Dessert??

     One of the fun little acts of kindness I've done a few times this year is to buy dessert for a stranger in a restaurant.  And believe it or not, every time I do it, I find another way that I can make it better the next time.  Tonight was no exception.
    The first time I tried this, I was in a restaurant in Chicago.  I explained to the waitress that I wanted her to charge me for a dessert and deliver it to a particular couple seated across the dining room from me.  When she delivered the dessert, there didn't seem to be any reaction at all.  It occurred to me afterwards that the couple may have simply thought it came with their meal!  The reason this is relevant is that I want them to be motivated to "pay it forward", and if they didn't even know it was anything special, they were unlikely to do anything as a result.
     The second time, having learned a lesson, I decided to ask the waitress to let the selected couple know that the dessert was courtesy of a stranger.  At least this way they'd know it was something special and not just a part of the meal that the restaurant was providing.  While this was better, there was still more I could do to improve the experience.
     The last time I did this, I was in the Rochester, NY area.  Before I left my hotel room, I wrote out a note that said, "Please enjoy this dessert courtesy of a stranger wishing you an awesome day!  What can you do to make someone's else's day?"  This added a whole new dimension of paying it forward.  While I'll never know what happened, I figure that anyone who gets a free dessert with that note, is more likely than the average person to follow my prompt and find a way to pay it forward.  Tonight, though, I figured out yet another improvement.
     I was in Bethlehem, PA this evening getting ready for a talk tomorrow, and I went to a local restaurant for dinner.  Once again, I wrote out that same note before leaving my hotel so that I would be prepared if the spirit moved me.  As I was finishing up my meal and getting ready to enlist the aid of the waitress in my "scheme", I came up with a great new wrinkle.  
     This time, I explained to the waitress what I wanted to do, but I gave her the note and asked her to pick someone this evening that she felt could use a "pick-me-up." She was blown away and was so excited and thankful for the opportunity.  She told me that she's been waiting tables for more than 5 years, and this has never happened to her.  She couldn't wait to choose just the right person to receive the dessert.    Of course, that led us to talk about my project and the website since she wanted to know what motivated me to do this.  I was happy to give her this site and hope that it will similarly motivate/inspire her to look for and act upon her own opportunities to spread kindness.  Bottom line:  I was able to provide some kindness for a stranger, I gave the waitress an opportunity to experience and be inspired by kindness, and I hopefully prompted a pay-it-forward response.  A triple whammy!!
     In the spirit of continuous improvement, I still have more ideas for how I could make this better the next time!  Stay tuned . . . 

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