The Art of Making People Feel Special
Winnipeg Parent, Fall 2014
With the holidays fast approaching, it is easy to get caught up in the more materialistic side of buying and giving for family and friends. Giving the gift of making people feel special goes a long way and can stay with us for a lifetime. I had the privilege of interviewing three inspiring individuals: Joanne Klassen, writer and facilitator of Heartspace writing school, Bonnie Shroeder healer, facilitator and teacher of mindfulness meditation and Jean Guillaume Zeidan Starbucks barista and health business owner. Each in their own right gracefully embody inspiration and know the art form of how to make others feel special, appreciated and seen. Their intoxicating and seamless way of sharing their gifts with the world bring out the best in each person they come in contact with. What do they all have in common? Join me for a "behind the scenes" look into their lives, philosophy, mentors and inspiration they draw from and the words of wisdom they feel inspired to share.
I began with the curiosity to know more about each of their philosophies of life and what guides and inspires them to give to others. Each of their answers shared a different perspective yet had common connections that linked their ways of thinking. Joanne spoke with ease of the child within as being her contact point with the world. Seeing the world through the lens of a child with wonder, curiosity and love allows her to see, appreciate and express her love in the world with ease. Bonnie talks vibrantly about not being a bystander to life. Saying yes even when you are scared and jumping into the unknown... that is all of our growing edge! We all have a certain responsibility to share with others along the way. Stepping into the fire of our lives and saying "yes" to the opportunities in life can open doors we didn't even know were there! Jean Guillaume openly reminds us that we are here to share what we know and give to others freely. He is a strong believer that everyone deserves attention, love, acknowledgement and compassion. When we can give ourselves whole heartily and expect nothing in return, life's presence becomes even more beautiful and precious. He takes the time to look into people's eyes, write inspirations on their cup of java or tea to make their day and then finds something he appreciates about them giving them the message that they matter!
Turning points... everybody has them. They are the crucial moments in one's life that make you who you are. I asked each of them to speak of their significant turning points and how they made a difference in their lives. Joanne in her mid 20's bumped into the concepts of the inner child and the inner critic when she was looking for a way to move beyond criticism and judgment and find a different path where people can excel in schools, work and in life. Focusing in on the goodness of a person instead of what they are doing wrong makes them try even harder to expand into their full potential. Bonnie's turnings points centered around her travel. At age 21 she travelled to Africa and spent 4 months in a different culture and at age 30 she went to India where she had an encounter in a small airport with the Dalai Lama. Being around his presence and transmission awakened me and gave me the impetus to go on my first silent meditation retreat immersing myself in spiritual guidance on how to live my life with compassion and love. Seeing the world through another's lens enabled me to hold many different perspectives and have compassion for differences. Jean Guillaume spoke of a serious car accident that left him unable to work and seriously injured. He did not have health coverage at the time and was forced to fully surrender and examine every aspect of his life. I look at it now as big gift as it introduced me to alternative ways of healing and I had to learn to rely on others for the basics in life. I learned to trust and follow my intuition and develop an inner guidance which had lead me through my healing journey. From there, I changed my outlook on life realizing "the more I give, the more I receive".
I was struck by how each of my interviewees found a way to trust life and their inner process and how they each brought that back into their lives. I was intrigued to know who their mentors were that touched their lives with kindness and love. Joanne spoke fondly of her first boss at 19, a principal at a High school she was working with who made her feel "like a million bucks". He spoke of all my good qualities and referred to me as "an organizational genius". In return I rose to his vision. He taught me by example how to see the best in someone and express it freely and in return the more likely we are to appreciate that aspect of ourselves. My other mentor is Louise Hay whose commitment to positive affirmation as a way of life and personal practice spills over the edges to affirm the gift of others. Bonnie spoke of her grandmother being her first mentor who introduced her into the world of nature and encouraged her curiosity. My grandma was a farm wife with 11 children. She embodied compassion. Her kind words and gestures offered me a space to be fully present. I felt the preciousness of life being around her and it was so life affirming! The Dalai Lama's ability to expand his heart so vastly, Pema Chodron and Ken Wilber who also embody the presence of loving kindness inspire me deeply. Jean Guillaume spoke so tenderly of his mom being his mentor. She adopted my twin brother and me from Lebanon at 51 years of age while working for an organization called Unesco overseas. Her loving action changed the course of my life. My wife, Stephanie is a wonderful inspiration whose smile captures my heart and helped me have the strength to get through my accident back into health. Other inspirations are Nicola Tesla a colleague and competitor of Thomas Edison, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Anthony Robbins who believed anything is possible.
I asked each of them if they would be willing to share any words of wisdom that could support others on their journey. Joanne invites each one of us to cultivate the wonder of our inner child in whatever way pleases and awakens our uninhibited spontaneity and expression. "The gift of giving" she says "costs nothing and can give to anybody at anytime". Bonnie suggested surrounding yourself with people who inspire you and can support your greatness to live fully. She encourages us to travel with our eyes wide open so you can learn and grow! Her motto: "As best as we can" which accepts ours and others limitations and welcomes compassion for all of us. Jean Guillaume suggests removing all negative words in your vocabulary and owning your decisions with full responsibility and joy... as he says in his delightful French accent: "you are the painter of your future".