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When Enough Is Enough: A Prescription For Change

10/16/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

We've heard the political cries of "Enough!" We've seen the blue placards for "Change!" For McCain, apparently it means pulling a serious 'switcheroo'. Instead of selecting his mate from the roster of the 'old boys' club,' he's gone fishing in Alaska and reeled in Sarah.

But, what does change mean outside our political conventions -- when it comes to you and me? What does 'having had enough' mean when the subject goes beyond the ballot box? What would you like to change? Not only the big things, but the little, too? Let's start with the little, and then move onto 'bigger fish to fry.'

Take yesterday, for example. My husband and I pulled up to the cleaners on Madison, here on Bainbridge Island. As I depart the car I say the fateful words, "I'll be back in a second! Just need to grab my clean clothes. Keep the engine running." Wrong! Twenty two minutes later, I return empty-handed. After searching/researching the same racks over 15 of the twenty minutes, Marie tells me: "I can't find your things."

"What do you mean?" says I, not so very pleased.

"On Tuesday I was told they would be here by Friday, at the latest. It is Saturday. I leave town tomorrow. I need my clothes."

"We could mail them to you Tuesday."

"How can you mail them to me Tuesday if you can't find them? How about we call the owner?"

By now, Mary's pupils are dilating. On the other side of the counter, I am remembering to breathe in, breathe out, so my blood pressure doesn't soar. "Oh, we can't call the owner," she says. "He lives all the way over in Seattle." (Seattle is a brief ferry ride from where we are standing.) "Maybe your cleaning is in a dirty bag somewhere around here. I don't know where. There's nothing I can do."

To which, I say, "Look, Marie. You did not lose my clothes, and neither did I. But we are in the situation together. What would help is if you acknowledged this must be frustrating to your client."

"Yeah, I guess." she says. "Come back in one-half hour and maybe I can find them."

Thirty minutes later, Marie produces two crumpled blouses. She sends us to another cleaner across town, where they'd been sent. Nothing had been cleaned.

Now, I realize, none of this is going to change the world. Still, I'd had 'enough.' I wanted something to change. Sure, the clean clothes would have brought some ease into the system. But, the real issue was the indifference, that 'Oh, well...' attitude that this business establishment expressed, with which we are all just too familiar these days. It is this precise attitude of 'it's not my problem' which reflects an absence of any apparent relatedness. Whether it shows up in the political arena, in international affairs, or at our local market, wherever we may be today, this is, most assuredly, a problem. Because, like it or not, we do inhabit this earth together.

Contrast this with Laurie, a waitress at Edna's, a few hours later. Here's a woman who's working her buns off to serve. Although the place was jammed with customers, she greeted each request around us with a patient, warm smile. She asked each diner, "What else can I do for you?" And, when I forgot my 'doggie bag,' Laurie sprinted outside, with it in hand. "Our food is so good, that I didn't want you to go away without it." Laurie, as they say, 'gets it.' Talk about customer service, relatedness. What Laurie demonstrates, which Marie lacks, has to do with an attitude of ownership. Although neither owns their place of business, the former comes from a position of victimization, the latter, full responsibility. Because Laurie knows she can make a difference, she steps up to the plate, and hits a home run. You can bet there will be lots of repeat business at Edna's. Hence, when we assume an attitude of responsibility, it is good for business, good for the economy, because it is good for human relations. She left with my business card, and I, with her cell number. We'll be having coffee soon. I believe that we are on this earth to make a difference. So does Laurie.

Let's bring this full circle. If there were some area in your life where you've 'had enough,' what might it be? If there were something you'd like to change, what is it? And, if there were something you'd like to see change, here in America, what's your top pick? Try the following prescription over the next 90 days, and note what happens.

1. When considering which political candidate to back, notice the prevailing attitude, and track record. How is each doing in the human relations category? Is there a sense that 'we are in this together?' Is there a sense that what we each do affects one another, and this earth?

2. When encountering some disappointment, some issue where we've 'had enough,' are we directly communicating the issue, or swallowing it and worsening our health?

3. After hitting frustration zones, ask, 'What is here for me to learn?' (For example, after the Marie incident, I was reminded that I felt a sense of ambivalence when I walked into the place that first time. But, in the name of crossing this task off my list, I discounted my own intuition. I was irresponsible to this guidance system, and paid a price. What I learned, (again!) was the importance of honoring these hunches.

4. When finding something praiseworthy, find a time and way to express gratitude for what has gone well.