Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Email of Fire Ignites Gratitude
Have you ever gotten an email that included a one line zinger that was intended to burn through your firewall? I got one two weeks ago that left me scorched and smoking. I read the little hellion at least four times wondering what I had done before or after I was born to get something with words underlined to make sure I did not miss the point.
After reading the email one final time, I sent a polite response back saying “thank you”. I did not bother to point out the fact that I did not initiate the email or dispel the insinuation that I was trying to crash a private party. Prior to Hurricane Alexis, I would have hit the reply button and fired back an email that would have set the internet ablaze. After replying, I would have thrown gasoline on the fire for good measure and felt justified because I would have sent a message that you might not like me but let’s get things twisted.
Instead, I went to a meeting to discuss my friend Kurt Nichols’ latest project, www.ripxx.com. I met with his marketing director who has a roster of who’s who clients. Kurt has developed a product that will be the next big thing in the athletics and my input was asked about a few marketing ideas. The meeting was scheduled for thirty minutes but lasted over an hour. I left knowing that I made a friend. We laughed and talked about Nashville’s politics and working together on future projects.
When I returned to my office, I had another email with a one liner in response to my polite reply waiting for me. I stared at my screen as if it was a child in need of discipline. I physically pushed myself away from my desk to keep from typing out a few choice words. My inbox was beginning to stalk me. The temptation to respond was so great that I left my office to get away from my keyboard. My second appointment of the day was in two hours but I was suddenly afraid of my ghoulish desire to reply. I did not want to repay ugly with evil. In my other life, I did evil emails well.
Arriving early, I decided to read for an hour. As I was quietly sitting in the lobby trying not to think unpleasant thoughts, I heard a voice calling my name. Correctly. I turned to see a friend that I had not seen in a few years. With time to kill, we decided to grab a cup of coffee. We exchange apologies and cried for allowing life to get in the way of our friendship. Questions about our children were endless and photos were shown as if we were moms with nursery age babies instead of young adults. We laughed about past crazy ventures and for the second time before noon, I was reminded of the power of staying positive. As our meeting came to an end, we planned our next outing. With appointments pending, we entered the elevator together and reached for the same floor. She inquired about my meeting. Coincidentally, my meeting was with her colleague and the giggling continued. An hour later, I left with a new client and a renewed friendship. My attention turned to a late lunch with another friend, Renee’, at a roach free restaurant.
During lunch, we sparred over all things political for ninety minutes. Renee’ is a dead ringer for Marsha Blackburn, so our political peppered conversation naturally drew glances in our direction. We debated Obama care, the Nashville convention center, the birth certificates of blue dogs, 2010 elections, kids, men, divorces, church folks, conservatives and liberals, upcoming balls and galas, donors and the elusive sponsors of anything non-profit. Our outbursts of laughter were followed by our pitiful attempts to whisper which only made our conversation even more comical. We took our determination to solve the world problems outside and talked for another fifteen minutes. After three attempted good-byes, we finally departed. The smoldering email was put out of my head.
Last week, I attended a luncheon with my daughter. She was seated at the head table. As I sat in the audience, watching my kid engage a banker as if she was forty instead of seventeen, the sender of the flaming email entered the room. For a split second, we paused before saying a cordial hello. At that moment, I realized I never want to become a professional sender of emails of fire.
I know if I had sent a rebuttal, an ugly email would have sparked a chain of nastiness that would have block any good that was intended for me or my love ones. Watching my daughter (who I have affectionately dubbed Hurricane Alexis in my posts) sitting confidently with manners and poise, helped me to realized that emails of fire should never extinguish your joy. After the luncheon, the banker came over and said he was a father of three sons and if he had a daughter he would want his daughter to be like my Hurricane Alexis. Tears came immediately to my eyes. The banker had no idea how much that meant to me or my trials with my precious category 5 child.
An email sent to belittle and put me in my place actually made me a more grateful person. Being refined by fire took on a new meaning that day. To my dear email sender, I must say “Thank you”; you have no idea how much good will and gratitude your email ignited.