Making the World Happier

A Smiling Face and a Word of Kindness

Something You Forgot … Along the Way
John Wanamaker (1838-1922) was a department store pioneer. One day, a young man came to apply for an advertised job opening in his store. Wanamaker himself conducted the interview, and the applicant answered every question with a firm “Yes” or “No.” He was a strapping young man with impressive academic credentials, and no one present at the interview doubted he had nailed the job. Even so, Wanamaker turned him down.

“He seemed like a fine fellow,” commented one of Wanamaker’s aides. “Was there something about him you didn’t like?”

Wanamaker explained, “He answered all my questions with a plain ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ instead of ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir.’ If he doesn’t know enough to be polite to me, I doubt he would treat customers with the proper consideration. In my store, the customer always comes first. I couldn’t possibly hire him.” The story illustrates the power of a single word.

Wanamaker’s employees used to say that one cheery “Good morning!” from the boss was enough to make them enjoy a week’s work. Their joy in working translated into booming success for the store. People talk about serving society, but nothing does so much to make the world a happier place as a smile and a cheerful hello. Like a street performer, Wanamaker brought hope and cheer to all around him.

The worst skinflints are those who are stingy with smiles and hellos. All it takes to make others happy is a twinkle in the eye and a word or two, so don’t hoard them. The Anglican clergyman Sydney Smith (1771-1845) said, “When you rise in the morning, form a resolution to make the day a happy one to a fellow creature.” By doing this for ten years, he pointed out, one could make 3,650 people happy?the equivalent of making a charitable donation to an entire town. That would indeed be an act of charity in keeping with Sakyamuni’s teaching to “have a smiling face and speak words of kindness.”

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