Have you ever noticed how unhappy people always want to share their unhappiness with you? It may come in the form of a whine, a complaint, a rant, or sanctimonious “constructive criticism,” but come it most certainly will.
The thing to remember when an unhappy person begins spraying unhappiness is this: It's not really about you. It's about them. And the wounds they carry. So try not to internalize it.
Do you remember the Jewish father played by Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful? He illustrated the idea that happiness can be chosen in spite of unhappy circumstances; you are not a product of your environment. You are a product of your choices.
Even weirder than unhappy people wanting to share their unhappiness with you is the fact that happy people generally keep their happiness to themselves. Why are we like this?
I have a theory about leaving tips on tables at restaurants: the size of the tip isn't really an expression of your judgment regarding the quality of service you've received. It's an expression of your generosity, the bigness of your heart. It's not really about the waiter or waitress. It's about you.
This idea can be especially fun when you receive truly abominable service. That's when you can leave a tip that's totally over the top and then smile all the way to your car as you contemplate all the different ways the story might end:
1. The waiter, recognizing the tip as a gesture of love, pulls himself together and has a much-improved day, giving everyone exceptional service. Your ray of sunshine touches 276 lives before it fades into the memory of yesterday.
2. The waiter, misinterpreting the tip as proof that it doesn't really matter whether or not he does a good job, continues his slacker attitude and reaps the life of mediocrity he deserves. But sometimes, late at night, he is haunted by the memory of the strange day he received a 20 dollar tip for serving a 7 dollar sandwich. What was that all about?
3. The waiter, shamed by the monster tip he knows he didn't deserve, assumes it must have been meant for the cook. Your gift has now triggered a crisis of conscience. Will the waiter pass the tip along to the cook and grow as a human being? Or will he “steal” it and forever know himself to be a thief?
4. The waiter, desperately needing the extra cash, accepts the tip as a gift from God. Congratulations, you are now an angel, God's messenger, a finger of His divine hand.
5. The waiter, truly stupid, believes he deserves the tip and pockets it with bravado. Let him have his sad moment of glory. There won't be many like it in his life.
The bottom line is this: People need love. Especially when they do not deserve it. And in the words of Iome Sylvarresta, “Love isn't something you feel. It's something you give.”
Do something good today for a person who has done nothing to deserve it. Better yet, do something good for someone you don't even like.
I promise you'll have a better day.
Roy H. Williams
PS – Peter Nevland and Paul Finley have a new flash animated video. Check it out.
PPS – The Monday Memo, as read by the author, is now available as an auditory MP3. Just visit the archives and look for the audio icon beneath each memo's title. We're adding more weekly, so keep an eye on the Monday Memo archives.