What Hat are You Wearing?

Today started out kind of sad (great way to start an article, huh?). You see, I hauled our swing set to the dump this morning. It was the final step in a multi-day process of taking apart the swing set my kids have played on since birth.


Every kid in our neighborhood had jumped from its swings, traversed its monkey bars, and hung out in its little treehouse fort. Our dogs had even climbed up the slide (with a little help from the kids) only to wonder just how the heck they were going to get down. I think I actually heard my dogs whisper a human swear word as they stood at the top of that short, but terrifying yellow slide.

The act of dis-assembling the structure was easy. Dealing with the transition that it represents has been a little more difficult. My kids are only 7 & 9, but without the swing set to keep them here, I fear they’ll be leaving for college any day now.

As I drove to the dump I was also driving down memory lane, revisiting the many hours the kids spent playing and laughing — and occasionally fighting — on what was now just a pile of junk in the back of my van.

Then I pulled up to the cashier’s window at the dump and I couldn’t help but smile. At the window was a very rough-looking landfill worker, complete with leathery skin and a very long, scraggly, ZZ Top kind of beard. I’d be willing to bet this guy has a Harley Davidson tattoo somewhere on his body.

He also had a fuzzy squirrel hat on. Not a real squirrel, a stuffed animal squirrel. The kind of hat you might buy at the souvenir shop at the zoo. He also had a personality that matched his hat: fun, friendly, and a little spunky.

He works at the dump. He deals with trash collectors, truck drivers, and tired, dirty people all day long. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this isn’t the most desirable job in the world. But, you’d never know it by interacting with this guy.

As I drove away, I kept smiling about that hat. Who does that? What kind of person wears a silly hat to greet some of the most gruff, irritable people you can imagine?

Somebody who knows they make a difference.

Squirrel hat guy made my sad little trip a completely different experience. I’m sure he changes the mood of many people throughout the day. In fact, the regular trash haulers probably look forward to pulling up to that window.

So, what kind of hat are you wearing? No, you don’t have to wear Mickey Mouse ears to make a difference. In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, it’s the attitude that makes the difference not the headwear. But, hey, if wearing a conehead or a princess crown helps you express a fun, friendly attitude, go for it!

You have the ability to make a difference every day. Sometimes the difference is blatantly obvious, like my huge smile as I saw the man in the funny hat. Sometimes it’s more subtle, like the feeling a genuine compliment or sincere thanks to a customer or teammate leaves behind.

Consider this: your customers NEED you to make a difference right now. Forget for a moment that you’ll probably build more loyalty, sell more stuff, and make more money. When you make a difference, even a small one, in somebody’s day-to-day life, you’ve changed the world a little bit for the better. I can’t think of a time in recent history when we’ve needed that attitude more than right now.

Your assignment: make a difference the very next chance you get. It might be two minutes from now or later this evening, but you’ll have at least one chance to make someone’s day by the end of the day. Take that chance! Then do it again tomorrow.

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