Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

Service of Year-End Gratuities

Thursday, December 21st, 2023

Tenants in our apartment house place December tips in the slot on the roof of this house

I’ve only lived in a gargantuan building the last four years of my life and I still can’t get over my holiday tip challenge. This year there were 28 envelopes to fill for porters, handymen, door staff, manager and temps. I keep a chart of what I’ve given to every staffer each year. While expensive, the system is impersonal but efficient. We place the envelopes in a container in the lobby. If only half the 510 tenants give something, staff should do quite well.

Co-ops and condos often ask for $X.00 from each tenant and the money is divvied up by management. I’d come out way ahead if that were the case here.

One friend gives $0.00 to porters in his co-op because they “don’t do anything” for him. I guess he forgets who removes garbage from refuse rooms, vacuums the hallways, shines the marble lobby floor and polices the outside of the building, watering trees and flowers as well.

Another friend reminded me of all those who stiff the staff while urging me to bring it down a notch for some of the gifts to staff I never see. “You are one person,” she added. And during the year I tip anyone who so much as turns a screw to fix something in my apartment. [They are so quick to unclog a sink or fix a bathroom fan that sounds like a jet revving up on a flightline I suspect the word is out to expect $ from my apartment.]

My hair stylist told me that some ridiculous weekly or monthly customers go elsewhere in December so as to avoid giving a holiday gift and tip! They shouldn’t feel obligated, she said. If they have the substitute stylist color or cut their hair, this only-in-December person could ruin a year’s work not to speak of causing a dip of income in month 12.

Some staffers in office or home may be nasty or appear to be unconscious yet you never know if you’ll need them so stiffing them at Christmas may not be a great idea.

How do you handle the tipping situation?

Service of Enough is Enough: When Should the Familial Milk of Human Kindness Cease?

Monday, March 13th, 2023

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay 

I disagree with part of the response New York Times Ethicist columnist philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah gave generous grandparents who wrote him about their “rude and ungrateful” youngest grandchild. The 17-year-old never thanked them for the educational trust they set up for her college tuition nor for recent birthday gifts and she ignores them at family gatherings. Her mother—their daughter—said the young woman was simply being a teen [though none of the other grandchildren behave this way] and not to confront her with how her behavior hurts their feelings.

I agree with this part of his response: “You have an independent relationship with this teenager; if you think your daughter’s recommendation is mistaken, you can tell her so and let her know you’re going to talk to your granddaughter about your concerns.”

He recommends that if they do speak with the brat, [my choice of words], the conversation “shouldn’t be accusatory or aggrieved; you can ask if you’ve done anything to make her feel distant from you, while emphasizing how much you care about her.” This is me: She may not like them for no other reason than that they annoy her. Personalities clash. It happens. They might want to prepare themselves to hear that–or nothing.

This is the part of Appiah’s response that I disagree with. The philosopher wrote: “Precisely because your financial generosity to your granddaughter is an expression of familial love, it shouldn’t be part of this discussion. The real problem with reducing your largess is that if she then mended her ways, you would all end up wondering whether you had effectively purchased her displays of affection. This could permanently damage your relationship with her. Authentic gratitude is what you’re entitled to, and it isn’t for sale.”

I think the faucet of their kindness should be turned off posthaste. I’d go a step further. The entitled youngster should be told that there are countless students who would be grateful for help to cover their tuition. The grandparents should tell her that they have donated the money in the trust for her to XYZ university for that purpose. They should honor her future birthdays with a card. This way there would be no doubt, should the youngster change the way she treats her grandparents, that she’s doing it for the money.

Am I too harsh? How many times should relatives be expected to turn the other cheek?

Image by genielutz from Pixabay

Service of Gratitude II

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

I’m gratified when an article in a legitimate source such as The Wall Street Journal confirms one of my observations. In this case, it’s about gratitude and how it has been lost among a large swath of people, young and old alike.

For years I’ve been part of a committed group of association members who vet applications for college and grad school scholarships—as much as $10,000 plus generous fringe benefits. I’ve often written here about the scholarships or the winners. They pass three reviews: Every application is read by two members. Those recommended for the second level are interviewed on the phone and if that conversation goes well, the student meets a committee in person where final decisions are made. The competition is stiff. Some of the high school senior through grad school students are remarkable.

This year I interviewed college seniors attending grad school and only one sent me a thank you. Last year none of the students I spoke with thanked. “So what?” say you? “Nobody thanks these days. Where have you been?” you may think. So this: If two students receive equally high recommendations to move to the third and last review and one has written a thank you as short as “tx,” and the other has not, the grateful one gets the opportunity to be interviewed in person; the other loses her chance.

But the ramifications of not expressing gratitude are far greater than missing out on a scholarship.

In “An Attitude of Gratitude,” in the Journal Jennifer Breheny Wallace wrote: “As Dr. [Richard] Weissbourd sees it, parents were fed a myth that if children feel better about themselves—if parents praise them, cater to their every need and make them feel happy—it will help them to develop character. ‘But what we’re seeing in many cases is the opposite: When parents organize their lives around their kids, those kids expect everyone else to as well, and that leads to entitlement,’ he says. And when children are raised to feel entitled to everything, they are left feeling grateful for nothing.” Weissbourd, a psychologist, is faculty director of the Making Caring Common initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

“Researchers find that people with a grateful disposition are more thankful for a wider variety of things in their lives, such as their friends, their health, nature, their jobs or a higher power—and that they experience feelings of gratitude more intensely. For them, gratitude isn’t a one-off ‘thank you.’ It’s a mind-set, a way of seeing the world.”

John Wyeth

This approach reminds me of the award for niceness instituted at the Harlem Link Charter School named to honor the memory of John Wyeth who had worked there for a decade and who was the epitome of the award. I wrote about it a year ago.

Wallace also included observations of David Rosmarin, director of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He mentioned how gratitude takes a place in most world religions.

I attended a memorable Bar Mitzvah service many years ago in which our friend’s son Julian told the congregation about his good deed that was part of his Bar Mitzvah preparation. He described making sandwiches to offer homeless men and women in Newark, N.J. and how hard it was to get out of his father’s car when they arrived in the city and what it was like to approach and speak with the destitute people he met.

Helping less fortunate people became a turning point for one family in the article. The floors in a house that one of the children helped to restore as a volunteer were in such bad shape you could stand in the home and see through to the ground. When this child returned home “she got down and hugged the floor and said, ‘I’ve never been grateful for a floor, but now I am.’”

Wrote Wallace: “The researchers found, in keeping with past studies, that general gratitude was associated with less anxiety, less depression and greater well-being. They also found that religious gratitude—toward God—was associated with additional reductions in anxiety and depression and increases in well-being.”

It’s never too late to teach gratitude to a child and Wallace noted the obvious: The most effective way is for parents to practice what they want a child to do such as thanking when junior takes out the garbage or holds open a door.

Wallace wrote that parents can “spur their children to appreciate and reflect on the time and thought behind the gifts and kindness they receive, as in: ‘Jack really knows how much you love football. How thoughtful that he gave you a jersey of your favorite team’ or ‘Wow, Grandma just took a five-hour train ride to come and see you perform in that play.’”

Do you think expressing gratitude eventually leads to feeling it and that it really has positive effects? Does a person—parent, boss or client–appear to be weak if they thank which is why they don’t do it? Do you know anyone who never thanked and then suddenly began to? Do you have examples of someone who expressed gratitude to you that bowled you over?

Service of Hugs: A Girl Scouts Warning

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

You may have missed, as I did, this story in November when the Girl Scouts of the USA warned parents about urging their kids to hug relatives over the holidays. I looked it up after hearing Rob Astorino mention it on the Len Berman Morning Show on WOR 710 radio where he was a guest host between Christmas and New Year’s. The holidays are long gone but I thought that the topic was worth discussion because I’m clearly missing something.

Katie Kindelan, on, quoted a post on the Girl Scouts website: “Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they have bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.”

I disliked groping grownups who stuck their faces in mine when I was a kid and have always waited for a baby or child to approach me with a hug and if they do, I’m happy. If they don’t, I get it. I can’t recall any parent telling their child that they owe me a hug because I dropped by or gave them a gift. Most kids were taught to say “thank you,” but if distracted or disappointed, sometimes they needed to be reminded. Hugs? No.

Since the Dark Ages there’s been the dynamic between men and women–and countless movies and novels about the inflated expectations of some men after they’ve paid for a meal–but I see no connection between this and a child’s hug, except for using the word “owe.”

That’s the operative word. Do people really tell their children or their charges that a hug is owed? Do parents force children to hug others? If so, do you think a child would translate hugging grandpa or Uncle Frank to leaping into the arms of a boss who gave them a raise or bonus or into the bed of a date after a restaurant meal once they are grown?

Service of When Man Worsens the Impact of Nature & the Happy Ending

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Snow March 2017 at RR station 1 turned

It’s bad enough when you’re not on the spot to eradicate damage left by a hefty snowfall while the precipitation is fresh and easier to remove. That can’t be helped when you park your car at an outdoor lot by a railroad station and you’re not planning to return for a few days or more. Best you can do is hope for a few warm, sunny days to melt the damage if you’re lucky.

When the people hired to clear the snow make it harder for customers to extricate their cars from igloo-like conditions they cause by their lazy snow removal strategy, it’s enraging. None of the other lots on the two hour trip north looked anything like ours—see photos above and right–and we’re told that the last lot on the line a few miles farther north—Wassaic, N.Y.–wasn’t nearly as much of a mess.

There is plenty of space in this lot to dedicate an out-of-the-way areaSnow March 2017 at RR station 2 turned for a giant mound of snow which is standard practice in the northeast. The plows at the Dover Plains station clear the roadway by piling snow against the cars as they go past which makes it much easier and quicker for them and much worse for us.

We’d asked one company what they would charge to get us out and were told, “We’ll let you know when we’re done.” Translation: “Open your checkbook and we’ll see how much we’ll charge you.”

Snow Angels

Our friends Bob and John exit the train in Wassaic. Last Friday they took the early train upstate, extricated their car and drove down to free ours. This was a huge gift. Even if we had the tools, we don’t have the strength for this chore.

To make things worse, I’d jumped the gun in anticipation of spring and committed the mortal error of parking nose first. Not only did they remove the snow-turned to ice that was as high as the trunk and halfwayup the doors, [photo below, left] they had to clear the front, the sides, and where the wheels were to go and then they turned around the car so it was facing out. When a few hours later we walked out of the train and into the car we left the station in minutes singing their praises.

We have no control over nature but we can manage how we deal with it. Have you seen sloppy or spectacular cleanup jobs after storms? Can you share examples of friends who donate not only their muscle and know-how but their precious little free time to help others in a pinch?

The Before: Our car is in the middle

The Before: Our car is in the middle

After: Our car ready to roll.

After: Our car ready to roll.

Service of Luck IV: Watch Where You’re Going

Monday, January 30th, 2017

I’ve had a spate of good luck recently. Within a few weeks I found two MetroCards on the ground, each with money on them, one, $9+ and the other, all you could use and good for three more weeks. It was worth at least $115 if you take only two rides a day back and forth from work and to run errands on weekends. 

A few days later, walking by the 99 cent pizza shop on 43rd Street adjacent to St. Agnes Catholic Church, I saw $10 on the ground very near to a young man munching a slice. As I swept down to pick it up I noticed he hadn’t treated himself to a soda, plus it was a freezing day so I determined he wasn’t Mr. Moneybags as he’d be eating his lunch indoors. I asked him if the bill was his. He said “yes,” and it probably was.

A few weeks after that, walking home along Second Avenue, I found a wallet in the street with everything in it: Credit and insurance cards, cash, receipts. Fortunately, along with an appointment card for a Chicago dentist, there was a business card with a name that matched the plastic. I called, the woman was visiting her daughter in NYC and within a few minutes, she and her daughter were in the lobby of my apartment. She’d just arrived from Chicago and her wallet had fallen out of her tote bag as she exited from a cab. We hugged and her daughter said “See Mom? I told you not to worry. There are many nice people in New York.” The next day she sent the most glorious bouquet of flowers [photo below].

That wasn’t all. My husband couldn’t find a credit card and he refused to call the company. He said nobody had charged anything to it and wasn’t worried. I scoured our apartment and house, even checking inside the washer [he thought it was in the pocket of a shirt I’d washed and ironed]. We’ve had a few snowfalls upstate and a company that clears the snow disrupts the gravel in the driveway. I noticed something unexpected sticking out of a pile and there was his blue/gray Visa card. Whew!

Do you keep an eye on the ground where treasures might be found? Any luck lately?

Flowers for wallet

Service of Memorials

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Many remembered and honored the victims of terrorism on the 9th anniversary of September 11 this weekend. The outpouring of emotion and media coverage in the New York City area was poignant.

A friend asked me, “Why are we making such a big deal over 9/11, when,” he noted, “nobody did or does about World War II where so many more people suffered and died–or over other wars for that matter?”  So I decided to share my point of view.

This memorial recognition, while related to the topic of patriotism that I wrote about  in “Service of Independence Day,” is different. It has to do with respect and gratitude.

Back to my friend’s words: I think his impression depends on how you define “big deal” and “nobody” and how people honored their war dead in the past and are comfortable expressing emotion today.

As a child, I attended a yearly memorial mass with my father at the French church, St. Vincent de Paul in New York City. Dad, a World War II veteran and prisoner of war who escaped, was French. In the back of the church, dressed in military uniform, musicians blew trumpets and horns mid-service, so loud that most jumped in their seats, startled even if they anticipated the alarm. The church was always full.

That was largely the extent to which Dad shared his war experience with me, although it scarred his life and his family’s.

I visited Normandy a few years ago and couldn’t face the cemeteries with thousands of crosses and stars of David and I didn’t know one of those fallen soldiers. Instead, I marveled at Normandy Beach-so barren with not a bush or tree to hide behind. I was awestruck when I saw, in three dimensions, how exposed those soldiers were. You’ve seen the soldiers jump off the boats into enemy gunfire in movies and vintage newsreels. My husband’s uncle landed at that beach and survived. Just imagine.

There are over 58 thousand names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Other memorials, such as Holocaust Museums or Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam, attract millions yearly from around the world.

So why does one horrific event that exterminated a few thousand continue to pull on our heartstrings and how come we recognize these dead, almost a decade later, from what was equivalent to a battle more than a war, with the same fervor as the year after? The raw wound might be because the act broke all rules of war; attackers victimized innocent citizens and involved no military forces. We are more vocal and emotional than our forebears where stiff upper lip was the fashion. And, I think, we are still shocked by the sheer below-the-belt, horrific ramifications of it all.

What do you think?

Service of Tips

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

I’ve wanted to touch on the topic of tips since April when Susannah Cahalan wrote about them in The New York Post. In “Tip-jar madness takes city,” she pointed out that tip cups are cropping up all over the place where we’d not before seen them-at hot dog stands at baseball games, in movie theatres by the popcorn, soda and candy counter, even at stores with grocery baggers. Nobody takes bags to a car for customers because most city people don’t have or use cars for grocery shopping. And in the suburbs, people bring their heavy bags to their car in carts.

I began to look for tip cups and notice them now on deli counters all year long. We’d see them only at holiday time before.

Cahalan wrote “New Yorkers are typically more generous than the rest of the nation-paying an average gratuity of 18 percent, versus the nationwide 15 percent.” At the end of the article, she provided an estimate of tips that New Yorkers give a year–$3,333.79. I haven’t totaled mine, but I disagree with some of the figures on which her total is based-which is a demographic issue. I don’t hire a nanny so the $777 allocated doesn’t apply but there is no money listed for a cleaning person.

We give far more than $30 to our building superintendent and each doorman at holiday time, but we don’t eat out three times a week anymore so I doubt that we give $1,170 to restaurant wait staff. I prefer walking and taking the subway–the fastest way to get around town–so I doubt I tip cab drivers $308.88 in 12 months. And I never go to the hairdresser for a haircut only, so it’s hard to tell what part of the tip I give relates to the $34.23 Cahalan allocated, but this seems on the low side. In fact, the proportion of tips for waiters vs. say, a doorman you see daily appears out of whack and points to another reason the population is becoming increasingly fat.

There are times when I enjoy giving a tip. One is when I buy a case or two of wine at Trader Joe on East 14th Street [which is easy to do as you can pay $36 for a dozen pretty amazing bottles]. There are volunteer staffers with hand trucks to walk the cases–cheerfully–to your car even if it’s parked a few blocks away. They won’t even let you load the boxes into the trunk.

Another is when the store has kitty litter only in 50 lb bags, not the usual 20 lb ones I prefer. I’m grateful for help lugging the bag to my car and pleased to thank with more than a smile.

A former boss told me that she left a restaurant near Lincoln Center that had the worst service she’d ever encountered and as she walked up Broadway, the offending waiter raced after her to tell her she’d forgotten to add a tip on her credit card receipt. She was outspoken and you can imagine what her response was.

What about cab or ambulette drivers who provide harrowing rides?

On the other side of the coin, I was appalled by an overstuffed 20-something brat who complained about the tip rule that’s clearly marked on menus at most restaurants in the city. For parties over six or eight, management automatically adds 15 percent to the bill. His gripe: “I paid $100 for my meal” [and given this was some years ago, make that $150 today]. “Why should I pay any more than that?” Guess this miser thought waiters in expensive restaurants work for free. The rule was made due to such stingy, self-indulgent people.

My mother’s next door neighbor was constantly annoyed because the super at their apartment building dragged his feet when she called him to fix something. She noticed that the same man came in a trice when my mom asked for help. Mom told her a million times to give the super a tip when he’d worked at her place and she’d say, “I only tip at Christmas.” No wonder she often had to wait until then to get action.

For a haircut, meal or manicure, what percentage do you tip? Have you noticed tip cups in new places where you work and live? Do you feel intimidated into give tips when you see a cup or even when service is poor?

Service of Bonuses

Thursday, April 29th, 2010


There’s lots of talk about Wall Street and bank bonuses as well as the toys in Happy Meals, which got me thinking of the subject of the windfalls I’ve most enjoyed.

milkshakeIn college, Brigham’s milk shakes stood out. Next to a tall glass of thick coffee ambrosia–sometimes chocolate or strawberry–the milkshake-maker set down the icy-cold metal container in which s/he’d assembled–and the machine stirred–the concoction. The bonus contained almost as much as the original portion. Sigh.

lifesaverI’ll never forget the Lifesaver books my mom got as a stockholder [maybe from Kraft Foods?] at Christmastime. The packaging was in the shape of a book which, when you opened it, was filled with a remarkable assortment of Lifesavers. I’ve owned stock in various companies for eons and I’ve never received such a gift.

I’m thrilled when a conductor gives the audience an encore, which happens less and less these days. Union rules?

freeadviceShortly after I’d left Art & Antiques magazine, I helped out a stranger who called for advice about his art gallery opening. Someone suggested to him that I might help even though I’d launched a business in a different stratosphere. During our brief phone call, I recommended media he should invite and made some marketing suggestions. I soon forgot about the conversation that was similar to hundreds that I’ve had over the years. On Thanksgiving morning, the elevator man handed me an envelope from the gallery owner. In the thank you note was a very generous check. It was the first and the last time I saw a cent from someone needing “just a little information.”

When newsletters were printed the old fashioned way, large PR agencies spent a ton of money with local printers. The one we used was tremendously generous. As we left the restaurant after lunch, the waiter handed me an entire cheesecake because I’d swooned over the slice I’d just eaten. A total treat.

I mentor college and graduate students. When they incorporate some of my suggestions into their approach, or continue to ask me questions once the relationship/school year is officially over, these events are at the top of my bonus list.

What have been some of your most memorable or favorite bonuses?


Service of Gratitude

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

The New York Women in Communications Foundation has launched a Gratitude Wall on its web site. For $10 you can let the world know that you are grateful to someone and why. Along with the message, you can also post a photo.

The initiative–recently posted–helps support student scholarships. It got me thinking about appreciation and of whom and about what I’m grateful.

Even in the best of economic times, every year has its downs for someone–it’s a universal condition my sister reminds me with each crisis. A friend, Anne, says “Nobody gets out free,” especially when you tell her about the So-and-So’s who live picture-perfect lives in a Father Knows Best 1950s-style family. All grandparents are around and in good enough shape to enjoy their brilliant grandchildren–slated for Harvard, Yale and Princeton–and siblings on both sides of the family live near one another in Kumbaya-mode–cousins, too–and, of course, there’s plenty of money all ’round.

I could take this occasion–the cusp of the New Year–to compare this year’s losses, fears and stresses and see which one of us “wins.”  I know that some readers are in the proverbial eye of life-transforming tornadoes.

But to help readjust the balance in our hearts, especially if the bad currently outpaces the good, I’ve opted to list some of the things for which I am grateful and welcome you to do the same. Every time I think I am done, I think of more things. That’s a good sign.

**My husband, friends and family. Without them, bereft wouldn’t begin to describe my feelings.

carasmall1**My furry, huggable, destructive, mouse-killing, lap-snoozing, moody kitty cat.

**When my Blackberry, computer, printer, telephone and the electricity work.

**Every day I get to enjoy our country house.

**The Millbrook Free Library [where I write many of my posts].

**When I can renew an unfinished book on line.

**The office I go to and the people in it.

**The students I mentor and continue to be in touch with.

**Dinner at home is a treat and often a surprise. My husband has become the most creative and superb cook and we eat far better chez nous than in most restaurants.

**The view of the East River from our apartment.

**When I discover a craftsperson who makes something creative in a fabulous way.

**NCIS, The Closer and Law & Order, even in reruns.

**George Stephanopoulos on Sunday mornings.

**Everyone who takes the time to comment on the posts in this blog and/or to contribute a post.

**When someone gives me spectacular service or is courteous.

**When I discover a great topic to cover on this blog–I’ve already thought of a bunch for the New Year.

**Flowers and plants, especially the ones that survive winters in a chilly house.

**A spectacular concert. We heard a goosebump-raising one recently by the Bard College student orchestra that brought the audience to its feet.

**The hope and promise of a New Year.

So tell me, what are you grateful for?

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