Christmas Eve at Aldi

December 24, 2018. Last minute errands on Christmas Eve are a holiday tradition in our home. Usually the last mad dash to the grocery is quite uneventful. Not so today.

I had two errands to run this morning. The first one was to the bank. The second one was to Aldi to pick up pineapple chunks for the ham, Señor Rico’s rice pudding (to which I may have developed an addiction), and to wander the special buys aisle to see if there was anything I thought I needed.

U.S. Highway Route 1 bisects Laurel, Maryland where we live. Both the bank and Aldi are located on the West side of U.S. 1 though the bank is the furthest. It makes sense, therefore, to go to the bank first, and then stop at Aldi on the way home, which is what I did.

Leaving the bank I turned onto Rte. 1, moved to far right lane, and prepared to turn into the strip mall entrance where Aldi is located. A car quickly appeared behind and tailgated me as we turned into the access road beside the large parking area. The driver of the tailgating car turned into the parking area one entrance before the one I used. What I didn’t know is that the other driver was in a fierce hurry and began to cut across the empty parking spaces. When I made my turn and looked up, there was the other car on course to T-bone the passenger side of my car. I slammed on my brakes. The other driver slammed on her brakes then started gesturing impatiently and, might I add, rudely, toward me. I turned to her and offered the universal gesture for “What THE are you doing?” (No, I did not “go nuclear” with the gesture, just to be clear.)

I went on by and then she continued to race across the parking lot without looking. She parked her car – but too far away for me to yell at her without sounding like a mad man myself. Then, she proceeded to go to the cart rack at Aldi, put in her quarter to unlock a cart, and go inside. As a further assault to civility and decency, she was wearing holiday decorated yoga pants and sweatshirt. Considered together, in my only slightly biased opinion influenced by our mutual near death experience at her hand, I thought her outfit looked like the hands-down winner of any ugly Christmas outfit contest on Earth…and I thought I might let her know that when we finally met in the store. Instead, I settled for glaring at her at every opportunity. And, yes, I did get that opportunity…twice. She ignored me.

I finally got the items I came for, couldn’t find anything else I didn’t come for, and gave up trying to make the badly dressed driver feel bad. I got in line and put my items on the belt – including a nearly two week fix…er supply…of Señor Rico. I chose this checkout line because I believed it would be faster than the line next to it where a woman was buying for a massive Christmas celebration and the items overflowed her cart.

Behind her was an elderly woman whom I had seen earlier holding a couple of canned items and scavenging for a small ham in the meat section. As the first woman, with the overflowing car, was just about to pay her bill, she told the clerk to put the second woman’s items on her bill and she did. At first, the second woman didn’t know what had happened until she tried to pay for the items. The Aldi clerk explained to the woman that the first woman had paid for her items. The elderly woman was shocked, began to thank the woman profusely, gave her a hug, and burst into tears. Together they went to the packing area together to bag up their bounty. Except that we are living in such divisive, hateful time, it should not be noteworthy that the first woman was black and the elderly woman was white.

Witnessing this powerful act of kindness washed away the anger I was feeling toward the badly dressed driver who nearly ran into me. Even more, it reminded me of the kind of person I aspire to be. I do not aspire to be the angry guy gesturing wildly to the bad driver. I do not aspire to be a judgmental fashion critic. I do not aspire to be the crazy guy that is looking up and down aisles in Aldi for a “chance” run in with the bad driver so I can glare at her. I aspire to be the person who kindly buys the groceries for another without judgment or expectation of gratitude.  

This year’s Christmas Eve run to Aldi was more meaningful than most. I learned something about myself. I learned how easy it is in a world where incivility seems to be the norm once again to also default to incivility myself. Shortly after Thanksgiving I sent out an eblast to clients, colleagues, and friends that offered this aspirational thought: Peace on Earth starts with the simple acts of kindness, compassion, and civility we do and give to each other everyday.

I offer it again here but only as a reminder of my own humanity and of the kind of person I still aspire to be.

Whatever holidays you celebrate, celebrate them with joy.

Be greater, do good, everyday…change forward.

Tom

Noses On!

It’s that time again! May 24th is the day! To be exact, it is Red Nose Day, one of my favorite charity events! For this one day a lot of media and public attention is given to the cause of ending childhood poverty. Since it was launched in 2015, Red Nose Day has raised more than $100 million dollars to impact the lives of nearly 9 million children.

Here’s what I love about Red Nose Day…

HOPE Buffalo is a movement in Buffalo, NY in support of adolescent health and wellness. HOPE stands for health, opportunity, prevention, and the three “E’s” of education, equity, and empowerment. The staff and volunteers see the impact of poverty everyday on the lives of young people. Last year they joined the call to don the Red Nose. They look great, don’t they?

First, it attacks a root cause – poverty. I’ve been working in human services, public health, and social change for my entire career. Within these domains there are many issues that adversely affect children which can be traced back to a common factor – children and their families living at or near chronic poverty. Red Nose Day is an attempt to address poverty by supporting programs and initiatives that keep children safe, healthy, and educated. These efforts do more than simply meet an immediate need for children. The myriad acts of kindness associated with helping also address the poverty of hope that children and families living in chronic poverty experience. You can make a difference by spending as little as $1 to buy a Red Nose at Walgreens or Duane Reade stores. If you would like to do more and give more, become a member of my fundraising team at A Nose for Tenacious Change.

Okay, isn’t this the cutest Red Noser you’ve ever seen? A couple of years ago a colleague got a nose for herself and for her son. You can just see this photo being featured in a graduation montage in a few years, right?

Secondly, it animates important ethical and spiritual values in my life. For me these are informed, with neither apology nor arrogance, by Christian Quaker spirituality. They come specifically from the teaching of the disciple Matthew, chapter 25, verses 31 to 46, a selection the Common English Bible calls “Judgment of the nations,” an intriguing title during these times. Most people already know this passage because one small phrase – “the least of these” – is frequently quoted in the context of explaining why we should care about others. If you have never read the whole section to get the full context and story, you may wish to do so. Though you may not share my faith, you may find we share the ethic.

Howard Macy’s “Red Nose Training Manual.” Download it today and get started!

Thirdly, wearing a red nose is fun and a great way to brighten the day of others! Don’t forget…to celebrate Red Nose Day you need, of course, a red nose. May 24th is just around the corner and you don’t want to be the only one with a naked nose do you? Okay, I understand the doubt and I can hear that voice in your head right now asking, “Yeah, but…what do I do once I put the nose on?” Good news! My friend Howard Macy (professor emeritus, philosopher, theologian, a wicked trumpet player, and a fellow Red Nose aficionado) is the author of the Red-Nose Manifesto which you will find in his Red Nose Training Manual, a masterpiece which might have won the Nobel Prize in literature if the Swedes had not cancelled it this year. (Sorry Howard.) To get started, simply download Howard’s brief, easy-to-read book (lots of illustrations) and follow the instructions. From Training Phase Moves to Intermediate Moves to Advanced Moves, Howard will lead you by the Red Nose to the point where you will be proudly sporting it wherever you can. Here is one of his Advanced Moves that I have used before, “When teaching or leading a group, slip the nose on subtly while looking away, then turn around and continue to lead.” If that seems too daunting, how about this Intermediate Move: “Slip on the nose when you’re stuck in traffic. Smile broadly, sing with the radio.” If you are Red Nose virgin and even a semi-public appearance seems way too much to you, try this Training Phase Move by yourself: “Slip the nose on when you’re tempted to feel disrespected or seriously important.” Personally, I have no less than eight red noses – including one in my backpack for Red Nose emergencies when I travel. (Fair warning: I’ll be working in San Luis Obispo, California this year on Red Nose Day. Ha!)

As much fun as I have with my array of red noses, especially on Red Nose Day, the cause is a serious one and the need is great. I do not often ask people to contribute to something, but I am making that ask today. My life’s work has been to try to make this world a better place for all – including “the least of these.” The mission of Tenacious Change is to animate and equip people, organizations, and communities to lead change for the greater good. Participating in Red Nose Day is one small thing each of us can do for the greater good. I would be honored to have you on my Red Nose Day team at A Nose for Tenacious Change. Thanks!

Remember…Be Greater, Do Good, Everyday. Put on a Red Nose and Change Forward!

Tom

Click here to join A Nose for Tenacious Change at Red Nose Day. And thank you!

 

Just 1 Story – Episode 2 Is Airing!

Episode 2 of Just 1 Story is now available and airing. It is titled “The Pay-It-Forward Mentor.” This episode tells the story of a man whose career and life was transformed by a chance meeting. Just 1 Story features stories of defining moments and personal leadership in the lives of people. Do you have a story that has defined your life and work? If so, consider sharing it in the second season of Just 1 Story. Click here to learn more about how you can share your story in the Just 1 Story podcast.