I heard a story a few Sundays ago that my pastor told in his sermon. A major grocery store chain decided they wanted to teach their employees to give better customer service, so they hired a marketing specialist who held a seminar for hundreds of store employees. During the seminar, the specialist spoke with the employees about how they could make a significant difference in their own roles, no matter what it was. They just had to really think about what they had to offer. At the end of the seminar, the marketing specialist offered her phone number to the hundreds attending, and said she’d be happy to talk with any of them about any ideas they came up with.
Attending this seminar was a young man named Danny, who had Down’s Syndrome. He was a bagger, and he began to think about what he could do to make a difference. After about a month, he called the marketing specialist and told her he thought that he could print out “Danny’s Thought for the Day” on little pieces of paper, and add them to the bags of groceries as he bagged them. The marketing specialist thought that was a wonderful idea and encouraged him to do so. Incidentally, Danny was the only one who called the specialist after the seminar.
Danny began coming up with short “thoughts for the day” and printing out about 300 of them daily, cutting them up, and putting them into the bags for the customers who came through his line. Danny’s “thought for the day” became so popular that it wasn’t long before the line at Danny’s register stretched far beyond the lines for the other registers, and “his” customers simply wouldn’t move to other registers. People would come up with excuses to come into the grocery store to buy one or two items, just to get Danny’s thought for the day.
Soon, other employees at Danny’s store began to think of things that they, too, could do to make a difference in customer service. An employee who worked in the floral department began to look at the flowers whose stems were accidentally broken while doing arrangements–flowers that previously were thrown out. The floral employee decided to take those flowers and turn them into corsages, and every day the employee would walk around and give out 3 or 4 corsages to random customers, who were delighted to receive them. The bakery employees began to walk around and hand out samples of cookies and sweets while thanking the customers for coming in. Soon the store was burgeoning with customers, and its profitability began to soar.
It all began with one earnest young man who wanted to make a difference and took the time to do so. In this crumbling world, we can look around and feel like the problems are too big, too vast, too hard to tackle. But we can make a difference. And like Danny, it takes one of us to light our own candle, and soon, others will take from our flame, and light their own, and then others will follow.
This world is desperate for our light. We are the flames that can pierce the darkness. Let’s light our world.