At first I assume it’s the result of a venti latte. A caffeine high is the only reasonable explanation. How else could someone be so personable, so kind, so attentive at such an offensive hour?
It’s not yet 6 a.m., and we stand in line at the Omaha airport security checkpoint. When we reach the podium and hand over our boarding passes and licenses, she makes small-talk with the agent. Not any small-talk, mind you. Genuine small-talk. And yes, there is such a thing. When he asks how we’re doing, I manage a polite smile and mutter, “Fine thanks.” But Deidra? She looks the agent straight in the eye, shines a broad smile at him and asks him how his morning is going. She chats up the security agent. And it’s not even 6 a.m. We’ve been up since 4.
This gracious attitude is not a fluke, I later learn. During the entire weekend we spend together in Birmingham, Deidra lavishes this kindness and grace on every person she encounters. No exceptions. From the flustered lady behind the hotel desk to the concessions vendor at the conference center, Deidra treats each person like he or she is the single most important human being on Earth. She isn’t proper or polite for the sake of being proper or polite. She doesn’t offer a distracted, cursory nod or a pseudo-smile. Deidra is 100 percent tuned in. And it’s real. It doesn't matter whether you are the hotel clerk or the security gate agent or the server at Panera, once you meet Deidra, you feel like you are her best friend.
Have you ever met someone like that? Someone who makes you feel like you are IT – the one and only thing happening? I tell you, it’s enchanting. The way Deidra fixes her gaze steady and meets the eye, the way she smiles warm, not with thin, closed lips but big and broad, I tell you the truth: it makes you feel like one in a million.
Brad, the kids and I had dinner over at Deidra and H’s recently, and when she opened the door, Deidra said to my kids, “I am just SO excited that you are here! I’ve been looking forward to you being here all day!”
Mind you, this is something I would say to someone else’s kids and absolutely not mean it. Deidra meant it. I could tell by the look in her eyes and the smile that lit her face.
Deidra shines a bright light wherever she goes. It’s God’s light, I know that for sure – and it’s catchy. By the end of our weekend together in Birmingham, I found myself making an effort to smile more and engage in real conversation with strangers. And for this standoffish New Englander, that’s really saying something.
What's more, she continues to inspire. Now, whenever I’m at the post office, or in line at Super Saver or at the bank drive-up window, I smile broadly and make eye contact with the cashier or the teller. Sometimes I even make conversation. I admit, at first it felt forced and contrived. But it’s getting easier. Soon I may even be naturally graceful.
And when I am, I’ll have Deidra to thank.
Who are the light-shiners in your life? Let’s see if together we can try to emulate their graciousness. How about this: for one full day, let’s shine light onto every single person we meet. I’m willing to bet that before long, it will be a habit!