Whenever we give gifts, my wife and I try our level best to give something that would make sense and meaning to our friends. For a couple celebrating their anniversary, we decided we would try and make a caricature and gift to them. In a mall nearby, my wife and i always see the cartoonist, drawing caricatures of people. ( Oh btw, have you ever tried standing behind the artist and enjoying the caricature? It is so much fun to make faces looking at the work in progress, as the "models" go from smiles, to frown to worry; as they try to judge how good the cartoon is based on your reaction :):) )
Anyways, we always get these brainwaves quite late in the day. Their anniversary had already come and gone and we thought we would give it to them when we meet them for the Christmas party. And of course, today was Christmas eve - the day all shops close sooner than often and people rush to their homes to celebrate Christmas eve with their loved ones. :) So, we rushed to the mall. We find the cartoonist having lunch and we mentioned we would be back in like 20 min or so giving him time to finish up lunch.
When we came back, we saw him just getting started on creating a cartoon of someone. In true spirit, thinking we would be next in line, we saw down next to him, watching humanity running around doing their last minute gift shopping. After few minutes, he turns and looks at us and says " Oh, you are back with the photo to be cartooned. But i am sorry, i am doing my last one for the day - i am sorry i wont be able to draw yours today."
We were a little taken aback... being such well planned people, we had of course not planned for any back up :)
"Huh? But you asked us to .... and we need it .. you were having lunch..." our pleads and protests fell on a totally flat face. He stopped drawing for a moment, with a lot of deliberation, turned towards us, shrugged and said "sorry, I can't do your job now!" . And then calmly went back to his work. That's it - it was like an instant dismissal.
As we walked away from him trying to figure out what should we make of our gift idea, when my wife told me - "why don't you at least try to convince him?"
"OK" i said, and i went back to standing right next to the artist. Didn't want to disturb him - you don't want him to pour his frustration with us on the cartoon that he was drawing for some one else :). After some time, he turns to be with a lot of frustration on his face and picks up his eye brows. It's a silent, but about to explode with frustration "yes?"
I put on my what i think is my best smile, "you know, this was meant as a gift to our friends, and we haven't planned for anything else.. Is there some way you can help us out?"
I have tried this question at various places, and have had various answers ranging from a sweet smile and "Oh, okay, let me just do that. its after all just ten minutes' to the same sweet smile and "I am really sorry - i wish i could help you, but i really can't..." etc - but truly, i haven't had the reaction that i got from him, from many others.
he just dropped his hands in frustration, rolled up his eyes, got a frown on his face "you know, its Christmas eve, and i just can't keep working like..."
I didn't event let him finish "you know what, it's okay, i am sorry. Merry Christmas!" We simply walked away. It was Christmas and he was probably expected to be in a party. But then, isn't it the season of cheer? If Santa could hop on and off these many homes with his big tummy and still laugh all the way with his loud Ho! Ho! Ho!, would a smile from the artist have hurt? And to top it all, it was his benefit all the way - I was going to pay him - It was not free service! Why was he being grumpy at me for that?
Anyways, this small twist had given us couple of hours of our time that we hadn't planned for. The malls were closed, and on an outside hope, we called our Fitness Studio to see if they were open ( Probably Santa needed a workout ? :) )
Surprising they were. The person who took the phone was Sam, who had registered us and so we knew by name. So, when we were signing in, we asked Sam out of curiosity - how come you are working now?
She smiles sweet and bright and said "Well, the company's policy said that we had to be open today till 10 PM. And it had to be either me or my manager. My manager has two small kids and i was definitely not going to keep him at work on Christmas eve - the kids will be heart broken!".
Both my wife and I stopped in our tracks - we were pleasantly surprised. We know how important Christmas is for people here and to see someone working late into Christmas eve, and that with such happiness and cheer was very surprising to us.
"You know, i don't have kids", she continued with the same smile and cheer. " so i decided to stay back. And anyways, i can always get home before midnight and be with my family including my nieces on Christmas"
We were simply bowled over. You know how some people in such situation has that tone of "I sacrificed my joy. Sympathize with me". That was not how Sam spoke. She was just happy that she was able to get her manager's kids happy. It wasn't a tone looking for sympathy or any response. She just said ti so full of smile, cheer and warmth!
Just two random people from across different walks of life - both faced with same situation, work a little extra when everyone else is going home. And look at what a difference a simple change in attitude brings. I wonder how i react in such situation! Wish we all had that ability, the attitude to be like Sam, seeing the positive side of things always and having the happiness of making others happy.
My wish to Santa this year was to make more them like Sam :)
Merry Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!