For some time now I’ve been ending each episode by encouraging you to spread a little relational sunshine with the people you meet. Today’s episode gives you some examples of what this looks like. It will give you some ideas you can try out on your own.
She got me when she called me “sweetheart”
I’ll begin with a story of relational sunshine that happened to me recently at the drive-through window of Wendy’s. Not exactly a place I can say I’ve ever experienced the warm rays of relational sunshine before. It’s usually been more a place of darkened skies with heavy fog rolling in. But this day was different.
When I got to the window and paid my bill a middle-aged woman with black horned-rim glasses leaned out the window a bit, handed me my food, and said with a really big smile, “Here you go sweetheart. Now you go have a great rest of your day.”
She got me the moment she called me “sweetheart.” I’m a sucker for any matronly middle-aged woman who calls me that. Those brief words of hers, together with her toothy smile were the relational sunshine that brightened my otherwise cloudy afternoon.
A few days after this, I had a conversation with my granddaughter who turned 17 recently. She works part-time at Target and when I asked her how it was going she said, “My boss said he is happy with my work, but that I need to smile more with customers.”
“It sounds like you have a good boss,” I said.
Have you ever noticed how many teenagers work at Target? One of our grandsons also works there. I was thinking about this one day and how all these young faces unknowingly spread a little relational sunshine my way – even when they’re not smiling.
They don’t have tattoos, nose rings, or purple hair, at least I haven’t noticed anyone like this so far. It’s not that I have anything against anyone who fits this profile. In fact, in episode 129 I talk about someone in her mid-20s who looks like this and how I apologized for scaring her. I described the scene as follows:
She was wearing torn blue jean shorts, tattoos up and down both arms, a bare midriff with a ring in her navel, and another one in her nose. Her partially pink hair was in a bun on top of her head.
I felt like I needed to represent old men who look down their noses at tattooed young women with rings in their noses. I didn’t want her to think badly of us.
If you’re interested in how I unintentionally scared the girl, go to johncertalic.com/129
They’ll be in charge some day
Anyway, back to the teenagers who work at Target. There’s an innocence about them that reminds me of my own part-time job from another century when I was in high school. It’s where I found hope that my future was going to be better than my past. When I see those youthful faces stocking shelves and checking customers out at the cash register at Target it gives me a different kind of hope that somehow down the road we’re all going to be okay because these kids will be in charge.
I’m reminded they could all be at the beach right now, or in their bedrooms playing video games. But instead, they are giving up those pleasures to earn money that will help them take control of their lives.
Relational sunshine at night
More relational sunshine shone down on me at a recent baseball game I attended with my family. Like all major league baseball stadiums, ours here in Milwaukee requires fans to go through security before entering the ballpark. On this particular game night after I made it through to the other side, one of the security people said in the most sincerest of tones, and with a big smile on his face, “Enjoy the game!”
He was an older man, probably retired, working a part-time job to pick up a few extra bucks. His countenance and persona in wishing me an enjoyable evening cast a few rays of relational sunshine my way. They left me smiling, too. I could tell he was sincere and enjoyed greeting people and wishing them well.
These three examples of others spreading a little relational sunshine got me thinking about how I operate. I’m not an extrovert and usually don’t talk to people I don’t know. Unless they offer me candy, or a look at a cute little puppy in the back seat of their car. But in reflecting upon these stories I’ve recounted for you, and how complete strangers brightened my day, it made me think maybe I could do the same for someone else.
I can do this, too
My chance to do so happened one evening at the drive-through window of yet another fast-food place, Culver’s, a nationwide hamburger and custard restaurant based in Wisconsin. It has a special place in my heart as two of our grandsons got their first part-time jobs here. The food isn’t half-bad, and like Target, they hire clean-cut wholesome-looking kids – and grandma types. One of the things I appreciate about this chain is that they also hire young people with developmental disabilities, like those with Down’s syndrome.
Anyway, one evening I was in the drive-through line at Culver’s and when I reached the cashier’s window the teenage boy manning the window said “…your total is $19.39.” He paused briefly, then said, “That was a long time ago.”
Admiring his sense of humor in juxtaposing the numbers of a cash transaction with a period of history, I responded with “Yeah, it was even before I was born.”
Then, as I gave the boy a twenty-dollar bill for my order I asked, “Do you know what famous event occurred in 1939?”
“I have no idea,” he said.
“On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany marched into Poland, officially beginning World War II,” I replied.
The boy smiled for the first time and chuckled as he gave me my change, and said, “Oh, I should have known that. I really like history.”
We smiled at each other and then I drove off. By acknowledging his sense of humor and playing along with him, I realized I had spread a little relational sunshine in his life. And I had fun doing so. It sent a few of those relational sunshine rays back to me.
So what does all this mean for YOU?
I have a hunch there’s more relational sunshine out there for all of us, if we just look for it, mostly in unexpected places. Lately for me, it’s been at the window of the drive-through lane at fast-food restaurants. How about for you? I wonder what unexpected places in your life could be a source of relational sunshine for you.
I also have this thought: you could be more than just a recipient of relational sunshine. You could be a source of it in unexpected ways, as I was with something as simple as bantering with a teenager at Culver’s. With something as simple as smiling as someone. I know you can do this, and hope you give it a try. Intentionally smile at someone and see what happens. It might even land you a part-time job at Target.
Here’s the main takeaway I hope you remember from today’s episode
It seems that relational sunshine often starts with a smile. The simple act of smiling seems to penetrate the relational ozone separating us from each other. By spreading around a little relational sunshine we spark joy in others, and in ourselves as well.
In closing, I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode.
And I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, enough to put into practice what you’ve heard today.
For when you do, it will help you experience the joy of relationships God intends for you. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Well, that’s it for today. Please consider telling others about this podcast if you think it would be interesting and helpful to them. And of course, don’t forget to spread a little relational sunshine around with the people you meet this week. Spark some joy for them. And I’ll see you again next time.
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