The Bell Ringer

Ring your bell.

There's an old grocery store here – well, 40 years, old by US standards – that I don't use much. You see I can walk to two others and they're both organic so I don't need the first often.

But it is near and big and every now and then I stop in.

Being a little bit past its prime they do things to create a little excitement. Lots of food samples, colorful specials etc., etc.

And then they have the bell man.

Periodically the store has limited specials, hot fresh bread, fresh guacamole or maybe (like yesterday) hot tamales. These don't go on a shelf but on a little cart with wheels that the bell man rolls around the store singing about it.

His cart has ribbons and banners and handmade signs, and yes, he carries a little bell.

Randomly he moves from spot to spot trying to keep things interesting and keep a buzz going.

Now think about that. How would you like to come into work, have no idea what you're selling that day, have no place to store it, be forced to load up a little wagon and roll all around the store looking for business? For what I am sure is close to minimum wage.

Sucks, doesn't it.

Not for the bell man.

I don't know how many times I've seen him, but I've never seen him down or sour or unhappy. He shouts out the specials, talks to everyone, and laughs a lot in his booming voice. And yes, he rings that bell like he's starting the Indy 500.

Now what compels someone to take a job that on its face has so many drawbacks and make it a pleasure. I'm telling you – you can't be unhappy when you pass by the bell man even if you don't buy his wares. How is it some people just take the lemons in life and make lemonade?

While I don't have the whole secret I can tell you this: people like bell man get over themselves and fully immerse themselves in the role. They're not too mature to take it on and go for it (and yes the bell man is every bit as old as me, but he doesn't let it get in the way of having fun.)

You see, this immersion, this sense of fully embracing the role is possible for all of us. Fully grabbing the reins and deciding to make the best of the situation is often the difference between enjoying and suffering through your day.

I'm sure the bell man would rather do other things, but his employer gave him a wagon and a bell and said, go sell this stuff. And he does.

He engages customers, listens to their stories, answers their questions, pays them compliments – heck, he pays attention to them. Hawthorne Effect or not he engages people just as he engages the role.

The object lesson of course is that we can all do this and many of us have positions we'd describe as better than that of a roving food vendor.

Yes Virginia, there really is joy at work, and one day you too could be as happy as the bell man in the course of your labor.

But keep your hands off the bell – that's for him.


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