It had snowed all day Sunday. Although the public roads had been cleared in time for the Monday drive to work, the private roads were hit or miss.
The company’s private parking lot was plowed at some point the night before, but not thoroughly. Soon, the snow was packed and made slick as employees began to drive in.
All—except for the executives who had reserved spaces—jockeyed for spaces closest to the entrance.
One car drove in and stopped at the spot nearest the side entrance door. The passenger door opened and a very pregnant woman started to climb out carefully, gingerly.
Within seconds, another vehicle—a luxury car—arrived. It stopped near the other car with the pregnant lady who was still working herself out of the car.
The driver of the luxury car started honking. The woman turned her head, saw the car, and hastened herself. As soon as the other car cleared out of the way, the luxury car claimed its spot.
The pregnant woman stood by the entrance door waiting for the driver of the luxury car. They exchanged words; then both disappeared into the building.
Later, the woman was overheard recounting the morning’s event to an officemate.
“It was John Doe,” she said. John Doe (name changed to protect the innocent) was the CEO of the company.
“I apologized to him,” she said. “My husband just wanted to make sure I got in fine.”
The co-worker asked what the CEO said.
The pregnant woman shrugged. “He said there were other entrances. That I didn’t have to use that one.”
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. —Maya Angelou
Maybe the CEO had an important meeting he was running late for.
Or maybe he meant that the other entrances were safer for her.
Maybe he truly meant well.
I can tell you the women who were talking didn’t receive it that way. Certainly, not the pregnant lady.
I can only imagine what the husband thought of the impatient honking driver who couldn’t have missed the sight of his pregnant wife trying to safely make her way.
No doubt both women were wondering why they even bothered coming in to work that day.
Inspiration comes in all sizes.
We move through—and are moved by—well-written speeches or well-prepared statements, for sure. But also, and often, by small acts of kindness and brief encounters.
The gesture you didn’t think twice to do. The book you read and shared with your team. The email you quickly sent your colleague.
Words matter. Even when no one else can hear other than the person with whom we’re talking.