During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a careful student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”
Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.
“Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.”
I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.
Learning: Not that you should be polite and extend basic courtesies in hope of gaining something in return, but if you genuinely convey a welcoming and friendly persona you are essentially inviting positive interaction. For the most part, we all enjoy the positive and engaging people we encounter, especially those who greet us with a smile.