Everywhere I looked there were people. They were walking in groups—talking, laughing, eating,—ready to have a good time. The smell of hot dogs wafted through the air. Music came through the tunnels, adding to the festive mood. I was at the granddaddy of all football stadiums, the Rose Bowl, to watch my UCLA Bruins. The mood was festive because we were expected to win our third game in a row.
Standing quietly and watching intently, were Pasadena policemen and women and Rose Bowl security personnel, all in uniform. I walked up to several as I meandered through the crowd. Each one’s face changed just slightly, wondering what I wanted, but ready to help. I held out my hand and said, “Thank you. Thank you for standing here, watching, and keeping us safe.” Each person I spoke to responded with a startled look, but also a “Thank you.”
Other people were making sure the Rose Bowl looked like it was dressed in its Sunday best. Despite the thousands of people spilling popcorn, dropping napkins, letting trash fall to the ground instead of taking the time to find a trash can, the Rose Bowl was spotless. Again I walked up to these people who no one seems to see. I held out my hand and said, “Thank you. You make being at the game a better experience because it looks like Disney Land. I appreciate the work you do.” Each person I spoke to changed their expression from one of bored automaton to a smile that lit up their whole face.
At each tunnel entrance, there are two people whose main job is to check tickets and make sure only those with tickets in that section go down the tunnel. When they politely, but firmly, deny entrance to anyone, they are subjected to arguing, cajoling, and irritation. They hold their ground without losing tempers. In addition, anyone who is unsure of how to get to their seats approach and these ladies and gentlemen patiently explain how to get where they want to go. I went to several tunnels and at each one the people standing there were ready to answer my questions, to help me as they did hundreds of others that day. When I held out my hand, they got puzzled looks on their faces. And when I said, “Thank you for what you do, for making sure only ticket holders go down the tunnel, for helping anyone with a question. You make the day run smoothly so we can enjoy the game,” every one told me, “I love what I do.”
There were a few people next to stacks of seat cushions, renting them to make the hard, plastic seats more comfortable. The crowd was more interested in information. Since these people had on polo shirts with a Rose Bowl label, many fans approached looking for help finding their way in the stadium. Without fail, the fan was treated courteously and received whatever help they needed, even though that wasn’t the job of these young men and women. After watching one exchange, I walked up to the young man renting the cushions, offered my hand, and said, “Thank you for your helpfulness and courtesy.” He offered to give me one of the cushions for the game (which I declined).
Every one of these people was doing their job and doing it well. Unless their services were needed, no one noticed. They weren’t the star of the show, running plays, scoring touchdowns, worthy of the Victory Bell ringing, clapping, cheering, and accolades.
Without them there would be no game.
I couldn’t help but think of Jesus cleansing the ten lepers in Luke 17: 11-19
On the way to Jerusalem, he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
I know none of the people at the Rose Bowl did anything close to what Jesus did. But like Jesus, their service went unnoticed, taken for granted, as though those receiving the gift earned it. Jesus asked, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God. . .”
God wants us to notice all the goodness He provides for us. 1 Thessalonians 5: 18 tells us we are to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”
Yesterday, I saw the impact those two simple words—thank you—had on people who do not expect to be noticed unless they are needed.
I realized I need to be more aware of all the people who are on the sidelines, making my life easier and more pleasant because of the things they do. Each one deserves my respect and a heartfelt, simple thank you.
And always, no matter what is my circumstance, I need to acknowledge the goodness of my God by saying, “Thank you.”
Those two simple words have power to make others know they are appreciated, and they help me pay attention and notice all others do for me. They shift my focus from myself to others.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.