A Christmas Story: On Gratitude

               On Gratitude

           I’m one of those people who look like I work there. I can go into a strange office and people will greet me like a familiar colleague. They mention company projects, ask directions, whatever. One time a company was having an office dedication ceremony and several people congratulated me. Someone even asked if I was going to speak.

If I dash out at noon to do a personal errand at a local store, people will approach and ask my opinion on their purchase.  They may want me to guide them to a particular product, or even press me to ring it up and wrap it.  It’s flattering on one level, I suppose. I’m the middle-aged “Everyman.” But, like all celebrity, it gets annoying over time. It’s even worse the few times I go to dinner wearing black tie. Strangers ask me for the wine list.

One Christmas, I ran a holiday dinner for the executives of my firm at a downtown Boston private club. It was a formal event. We had a room and the party was in full swing. Everybody was having a good time. I stepped outside the room for a breather. I was standing in the corridor looking officious (I do that well too), when I noticed an attractive, elderly woman with a dazzling smile making her way toward me. I knew she thought I had some official function here, but she was so pleasant I had to nod and smile back .

She took my hand and pressed something into my palm. “You were always so kind to my late husband and me,” she said. “Twenty-five years of quality service. This is just a Christmas thank you and remembrance.”

I started to sputter, “But I’m not…..”

“Shhh,” she smiled, holding a finger to her lips. “I know you’re not supposed to, but this will be our secret.” With that, a pat on the hand, and another dazzling smile, she turned, and returned to her party.

Now what do I do? Another case of mistaken identity, albeit on a higher plane; but mistaken identity all the same. Before I get upset about anything, I employ my first rule: Assess the magnitude of the problem: I opened my hand. Inside was a crisp, neatly folded, five dollar bill.

I stared at it for a moment or two. “Twenty-five years of quality service,” I thought to myself, “and she gives me a lousy five bucks.”

Published Column, The Boston Herald, 2010; Copyright The Jokesmith 2011

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