Color Me Rosy

give your attitude a high-five

The items may have shifted and could fall out.

I was boarding a Southwest Airlines flight to somewhere a couple years ago; as I made my way down the aisle to an open seat I was held up by a man who was attempting to place his oversized bag in the overhead compartment. It seemed to be obvious to everyone except this man there was no way his bag was going into that space. But he was determined and started becoming very upset. He was upset to the point of cursing the airline, the airplane, the people who designed the baggage compartments, the people who sell bags that don't fit into the compartments and even became very angry at the flight attendant who eventually carried his bag to the front and checked it for him. As I waited for the situation to be resolved I had a few thoughts - what could I have said or done to help? This person's anger was preventing him from seeing so many incredible, amazing, positive and simply miraculous things about our situation. So in that moment I made a mental list:
1. On Southwest Airlines you don't have to pay for checking a bag.
2. Our flight was not delayed.
3. We were about to fly at 37,000 feet above the earth, that's awesome!
4. We didn't have to drive to our destination
5. We were about to travel about 1,000 miles within the space of a couple hours.
6. This cabin will be pressurized for our comfort!
7. We didn't have to walk.

When I thought of number seven I was tempted to suggest to this man that if he didn't like that his bag doesn't fit in the compartment he was welcome to walk to our destination. Knowing that his disposition was beyond comprehending my sarcasm, I kept my mouth shut.

This experience is a reminder to me that no matter our circumstances, there is always something positive that we can think of which can diffuse our anger. Yes, even in situations worse that oversized baggage. Give a try, next time something makes you angry, think of something positive about your situation and if you are really trying I know that you will find it.

OK, what do you want.

"You are being really, really nice to me for no apparent reason... what do you want?" - I thought to myself. Upon arriving to the 'Western Hotel' in Gunsan, Korea I waited at the check-in counter for several minutes. Eventually a small Korean woman entered the lobby saying, "no no, dinner not until 5 o'clock." I replied that I just needed to check in, I had just arrived. "You write name here, take key." was her response. "No credit card?" I asked. "No, I get later." she replied and hurried of with a basket of laundry. I found my way to the room and started to get settled, turned on the TV to break up the silence. Several minutes later the same woman knocked on the door and when I opened it she said, "you very tall, need bigger bed" and handed me a key to a different room. I collected my things and she showed me to a bigger room with a bed that would allow my head and feet to be on it at the same time. I was wasted, 20 hours of traveling and even though I hadn't eaten in a while I laid down and fell asleep. The next morning, downstairs by the front desk the woman walked by again with another load of laundry, she paused and I asked if she could call a taxi to take me to the airforce base nearby, "no I drive you, just minute" she replied and hurried off again. This will be interesting, I thought. She came back with some car keys, showed me to her car and took me to the back gate of the base herself. It turns out that this woman, one of the hotel's owners, does the laundry of her guests and cooks breakfast and dinner for them every day. That evening I hid my laundry deep in my bag, but at dinner there was no hiding the huge pile of anchovies she placed on my plate. Standing over me she waited until I ventured to try it, somehow I managed to keep it down and return a smile. "Why are you being so nice" I kept thinking.

Downtown Gunsan

There is a Korean proverb that says, "A great river does not refuse any small streams." Its meaning was pretty clear to me, there was no way to deny the generosity of this old hotel keeper. Do we live our lives graciously allowing others to serve us? Or do we keep thinking to ourselves, "OK, what do you want." 

Sunrise in Incheon








A Culture of Gratitude

My job gives me the opportunity to travel frequently, exciting at times, but always tough to leave my family for weeks at a time. For the past few weeks I have been in Japan, my first time visiting the land of the rising sun. It has been a great experience. It's humid, foggy at times, even though I'm staying right at the base of Mt. Fuji for two weeks the fog has only cleared enough for the ominous silhouette to appear twice and only for a few hours at a time. A stark contrast to the mojave desert that I begrudingly call home. Tokyo seems like a city that never ends, tightly packed with buildings, woven together with highways and canals, narrow streets lit up with neon lights like the Las Vegas strip and dark alleys that never see sunlight. But beyond all that one thing has impressed me most -  from the time I left the Narita airport just outside Tokyo I have been impressed by the amount of time a person tells me "thank you" and bows; buying a bus ticket, boarding the bus, giving them my bags to put on the bus, getting off the bus, getting my bags from under the bus, getting in a taxi, when the taxi reached my destination, paying the taxi driver, getting my bags out of the trunk to name a few. What is it about the Japanese that causes them to offer so much sincere gratitude for common acts. I sometimes pride myself on my ability to articulate sarcasm, but here even after the 5th thank you for buying some bananas I never felt a hint of it from the store clerk. Even the Japanese phrase for thank you sounds more sincere to me than my own, maybe its just because its new, foreign, exoteric but I don't think so. Such a trait could only exist as a remnant passed down from respected ancestors, as it is so engrained in this society. It feels good to give thanks, I felt good being thanked so many times. Try it out, see how you can build others up by offering sincere gratitude. Next time you see me don't be surprised if you get a bow - arigatōgozaimasu.