Sunday, August 5, 2007

There Are Sunshine People Among Us

I want to write about the Sunshine People, but they are difficult to describe. Not too plentiful on the ground. Still, most of us have met two or three sometime. I don't think I've ever known two at the same time.

I think they are born that way, and then they lead lives to enhance their natural inclination for warmth and goodness. They come in both genders, and pretty much all ages, although they really shine as they age. They are not prepossessing, so it may take you a while to realize what a special person this is and what a difference he/she makes.

Sunny dispositions? Of course. But so much more. It is that special warmth that draws us, almost as if we are warming our hands. We soak it in.

Linda was one of them. She was a pleasant, silver-haired woman in her 50s, dependable, prompt, and efficient at the tasks she was given.We had been without a receptionist several weeks before she was hired and had had to take turns subbing on the phones. The reception area had gotten a bit grubby and pretty trashed out. She immediately had the area spotless and immaculately organized. Without, I might add, comment or complaint. A woman with a green thumb, she started watering our office plants, and I'll be darned if the poor things didn't start looking better, losing the brown edges, putting on new leaves. She could manage civil conversations with some pretty difficult people, although she would hang up if they started cussing her. She wasn't a pushover. But so gentle. and kind. and a megawatt smile.

She was just so genuinely glad to see you. Her face would light up to see you. I think most of us got in the habit of drifting into her area sometime during the day if we could, just to talk a few minutes. Our days simply went better if we did. We felt better, more positive. She didn't fuss over us, or bake stuff, or do anything special. She just radiated that warmth and goodness and welcome.

She had been there awhile when someone in the break room said, "You know, I feel better with Linda here." And someone else said,"me too." Several mentioned the lift they got from her good morning smile, and one of the supervisors said, "she makes this a better workplace."

She was just an ordinary woman. No special skills. We certainly could have found someone with more computer skills. But Linda's warmth made much more difference than a few computer skills would have. When I talk with former colleagues, we still talk about Linda sometimes. We will always remember her.

I first made a Sunshine sighting in my 30s. An older lady at church whom the kids swarmed over,and pretty much the adults, too. What I finally figured out about her was, she let you love her however you wanted, and she was comfortable with it. She pretty much loved everybody back. You sat down with her and you just completely relaxed.

A mental health administrator I wanted so much to work for is one. Retired now, he had this excellent, amazing center that is still doing very good work. But somehow, his warmth, his belief in his staff, lifted them to heights of performance they can no longer reach on a regular basis. He was incredibly protective of them, making sure they had as much balance with family and work as he could possibly manage for them.

The poster child for Sunshine People, I suppose, would be Mother Theresa, but that's just one end of the spectrum.

We talk about liars and bipolars and self-centeredness, and brood about "people are no damn good." And all the time, these rare, wonderful perfectly normal people are moving among us, living their lives. I know lots of warm, cheerful people. The Sunshine People are a step above that. You don't just enjoy them, you feel better when you are around them.

Take time to remember the one or two or more you've known,or know, and remember that warmth, and for just a moment, revisit it. And smile.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I think Tammy Faye Messner was a Sunshine person. She loved everybody, no matter who or what they were. A lot of people thought she was a joke, but she really was just loving and compassionate.