My cat, Bobo, lives two different lives. The “inside” Bobo, is physically standoffish, grazes at his food bowl and sleeps in his basket 90% of the time. The “outdoor” Bobo is known as the friendly cat in the neighborhood. He is outgoing and begs for attention from passersby. Outside Bobo romps, rolls in the grass and nuzzles for some loving around his neck and ears.

bobo-cropped-rev-1024x790Last Sunday, I had some extra quality outdoor time for Bobo. As we played in the grass, a lovely woman walked by on the sidewalk with her plastic bag of groceries.  She was dressed in what appeared to be an abaya and hijab. Her face was radiant and she greeted me with a most generous, glowing smile. We talked a bit about cats and she told me she had three cats too. As we continued with our cat conversation, we both agreed that there are ups and downs with caring for them. Indoor cats are safe but may not be able to enjoy their natural environment of the outdoors. Outdoor cats don’t need a litter box so owners might save some money but the cats may not be as safe.

At some point we introduced ourselves. Marci continued that caring for cats is like everything else in life. Life is not perfect. There are ups and downs, good and bad, give and take. When she left Iran, she gave up much. But in coming to the US, she has learned so much about our culture.  She misses her family terribly but in return, she has developed a true love for America and is most thankful she had the opportunity to live here with her husband and raise her children.

We continued with our discussion that even when we think we win at something, someone is really giving something up, however small. In this giving up, we perhaps lose a little something of ourselves, sometimes painful, sometimes not so painful.  But this experience of actively giving or losing can open us up to being filled up by something or someone else if we open our hearts. Sometimes we have to give out or give up to receive from others.

In customer service training sessions, we discuss the Law of Reciprocity and its role in service orientation. We may give to receive. Sometimes the gift we receive back is an internal feeling of satisfaction and emotional warmth – a sense of connecting to the human race from helping others.  By demonstrating compassion, we serve others by relieving suffering. We may want to relieve suffering for many reasons – a response to our personal sense of empathy, our righteousness (sense of the right thing to do), and perhaps, because we have a sense that to receive, we give.

Facilitating discussions and discerning the “why” and “how” of service orientation is as important as the writing of a good script, an acronym and setting service expectations and consequences.  For some, service orientation is natural. For others, it can be more challenging and a continual learning process. Life does get in the way, things do happen, conflict does occur and we must re-evaluate and reset our internal compassion compass from time to time.

I may never see Marci again. But I am thankful a stranger took a personal moment to share, to discern and to help me reset my compassion compass.

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