by Phoebe Farag Mikhail

I occasionally indulge in the bad habit of checking Facebook or my news feed in the morning. It’s always a bad idea because it often puts me in an awful mood, especially since the tone of the news these days has us heading for the Apocalypse. But then I get in my car to drive my children to school, and someone snaps me out of that mood. His name is Mike, but we often call him “Buddy.”

Mike is the crossing guard manning the major intersection two blocks from our school. Whenever we see him, whether in the car or walking, he greets us with a huge smile and a shout: “Hey, buddy!” and then sends us off with a blessing: “Have a good one!” He does this with everyone who crosses his intersection. If I’m walking, and the intersection is not busy, he’ll offer my children hold his “stop” sign for a minute. Drivers honk their greetings at him, and I’ve even seen cooler-than-thou high school students enthusiastically high-five him as they cross the street.

When there is no one to cross the street, “Buddy” keeps himself busy by feeding the birds and listening to music on a small boom box. On rainy days, he is even more cheerful in his big yellow raincoat, and no less boisterous in his greetings. He can’t be younger than 65 years old, but is as carefree in his demeanor as a toddler jumping in puddles, while responsibly keeping people safe as they cross the intersection. It’s abundantly clear that “Buddy” enjoys his job, and even more so, spreads this joy to everyone he meets—even the birds.

Many of us know people with “ordinary” jobs who manage to make them extraordinary. From the city bus driver who knows the names of all her regular passengers and waits for them if they run late, to the cashier who entertains a whining toddler while you dig for your wallet, these people manage to generously bring cheer to others, even others whose salaries and benefits may be 10 times theirs.

This is what I’ve learned from “Buddy” and others like him about how to enjoy my job and spread joy to others:

1- Do my job well, whatever it is. When “Buddy” addresses every driver crossing the intersection, he gets the drivers eyes off their smart phones and reminds them that there will be little people crossing this street.
2- Be generous with my smiles. The word generous is the key here. “Buddy” is generous with his cheer and it makes everyone else around him cheerful.
3- Make everyone I help feel special. Letting my child hold his stop sign is just one example of how “Buddy” makes everyone who crosses the street feel special. I’ve heard him address other students by name.
4- Keep my energy level high. “Buddy’s” joy is authentic, and it shows that he is drawing from a wellspring somewhere that makes him able to give this to others. When not helping people cross the street, I’ve seen him chatting with a nearby resident, snacking, and listening to music. All of these raise energy as well.

Do you know someone who does an “ordinary” job exceptionally well? Share your story in the comments below.

One way to help me break my bad habit of checking my news feed in the morning is changing my smart phone’s lock screen to remind me of the first thing I need to do in the morning. I love the lock screens created by Laura Michael of the blog Coptic Dad and Mom. This is the one on my phone now, but there are many more!

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