I had a small experience today that struck me as the perfect example of the principle that drove me to create The Good Karma Project, an illustrated book I started last December and have slowly been chipping away at. I haven’t spent nearly as much time talking about the process or publishing endeavors for this book as I have for my fictional works– in fact, because my head is in another game right now (namely, getting Shifters out to agents), I’ve hardly talked about The Good Karma Project at all– but this tiny pebble of thing that happened today was just too appropriate not to share.
There is significance in the fact that the entire event– action, reaction, effect, etc.– is miniscule. Or at least, it is as far as I know it to be. But let me explain.
Here’s what happened: this morning I called my computer supplier, under whom my laptop is warrantied, to see about getting a replacement battery. You know how it is when you call generic customer service: you get the automated prompts, have to press the right buttons or give the right voice commands, wait to the tune of some peppy, Scooby-Dooish elevator music for anywhere from two minutes to two hours, and often go through representative A to get to rep B, who transfers you to rep C, and sometimes you get bounced between people like a Pong ball caught in a pocket before you finally get the right person– and even then, sometimes the person can’t help you.
My transaction was straightforward and went smoothly, but we all know there are also calls that don’t go so well– when customers get irritated and lash out at the people trying to help them. I think anyone who has worked in retail, customer service, or really any kind of service can appreciate the difference between a positive customer and a negative one.
Anyway, when I was at point E in my transaction (having already jumped through automated hoops and initial waiting), the first rep I spoke with, after ascertaining the business I was about, said she needed to transfer me to someone that handled replacement parts. I said OK and thanked her.
The line, which had previously been occupied by that perennial jaunty wait music, was replaced with a more abrasive beeping and “Please wait…” command followed by silence. BEEEEEEEP. Please wait. … BEEEEEEEEEP. Please wait. …
After a minute or so the rep from before picked up, apologetic. “Julie?” she said. “That transfer didn’t quite work the way I wanted it to…”
The way she said it struck me as funny, so I laughed a little and, smiling, said, “OK.”
Immediately I heard the change in her voice: it brightened. When I laughed and smiled, so did she. She said, cheerily, that she was attempting the transfer again. I said OK again and thanked her.
From there I was successfully transferred to the correct representative, who helped me order the replacement battery I was after, and completed the call.
But I want to go back to this first agent. Look what happened there. She made a small mistake (the transfer didn’t go through) and apologized. Now, I can’t say what reaction most customers would have there. Some would surely shrug, and the worse ones might be irritable and rude. But I laughed and smiled, and I could immediately tell that that positive action touched this person on the other side of the line.
Ripple the first.
Now, I can’t tell you what happened with Ms. Representative after we hung up; that would be speculation. But maybe her day was a little brighter. Maybe she shared that smile with the next several customers, or her coworkers, or somebody she talked to during her break. Maybe she left work in a good mood and went out and did something to celebrate– treated herself to a fancy coffee or cinnamon roll– and then put her change in the tip jar. And maybe the baristas, with that tip, were able to buy a pack of gum to share or little quarter-machine prizes for their kids. Maybe those kids, taking their new trinkets to school, gave them to other children who liked them better.
Aaaand this is why I write fiction.
The point is, even the smallest action makes a difference. Our actions ripple out beyond us, sometimes far beyond us, reaching others in ways and places we might never have anticipated. A smile and laughter on my part, at the very least, kindled a smile and laughter in someone else.
This is in the principle that drives The Good Karma Project, a book about making positive differences in the world. I intend the book to be 101 pages– each an illustrated idea of a small way to make a positive (and potentially rippling) impact in the lives of others. Only about half the pages are completed at present, but given the nature of the book and its mission, I aim to make an eBook version available for free when it is finished– so stay tuned for updates!