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English Publications

Short Stories

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LESSON FROM A RAINY DAY

Grace Chu

August 26, 1999 is a day that many New Yorkers would probably like to forget. However, this New Yorker will always remember that day because that is the day that I learned what a powerful gift appreciation can truly be.

On August 26, 1999, New York City experienced a torrential downpour. The relentless rain caused the streets to flood and people to run for cover. New York City’s subway system came to a screeching halt as the subway stations were inundated with water. Unfortunately this happened during the morning rush hour.

Many people who were going to work were stranded and forced to go home. Some battled with fellow New Yorkers to hail a cab or to get on a bus. Still others braved the storm, walking miles and even across bridges to get to work.

I happened to be one of the thousands of people on her way to work that morning. I went from subway line to subway line only to find that most service had stopped. After running around like crazy and making my way through crowds of people, I finally found a subway line that was operating. Unfortunately, there were so many people waiting to board the subway that I could not even get down the stairs to the platform. Undaunted and determined to get to work, I decided to take the train uptown several stops and then switch back to the downtown train. It was a hassle, but it paid off. However, the train got more and more packed at each stop. People pushed and shoved. I was constantly hit with elbows and bags. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the train reached my stop at City Hall.

But the journey was not over yet. I would still have to walk several blocks to get to my office. The rain had intensified, and no umbrella was big enough or sturdy enough to withstand the fierce forces of Mother Nature. When I finally got to work, I was soaked just like the rest of my coworkers. My clothes and shoes were completely drenched, and I left a puddle of water everywhere I sat. I was also exhausted from my commute.

My coworkers and I spent most of the day drying off. When 5:00 rolled around, I was ready to go home and get out of my wet clothes. I was about to log off my computer when I received an email from Garth, my Deputy Director. I opened the email and found the following message:

I would like to thank all those associates who made the effort and eventually reported to work. It is always reassuring, at times like these, when employees so clearly demonstrate their dedication to their jobs. Thank you.

As you can see, Garth’s email was short and not necessarily a literary masterpiece. But I learned more from that brief message than I ever did from a textbook. The email taught me that a few words of appreciation can make a big difference. The rainstorm and the transit troubles had made me miserable and weary. But Garth’s words immediately invigorated me and put a smile back on my face.

Garth’s actions also made me realize that words of appreciation not only make you feel good but they also motivate and inspire you. After reading his email, I felt that coming to work was an accomplishment that I should be proud of. Suddenly getting wet and the extremely long commute did not seem so bad. As a matter of fact, his email made the whole subway ordeal all worthwhile.

Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our lives and get so busy that we forget the magical power of appreciation. Garth had been caught in the rain like the rest of us. He had to tend to his responsibilities as Deputy Director. He also had to cope with the numerous absences in the five areas that he manages. And he had to take on his boss’ responsibilities, as she was unable to get to work. Yet, he still found time to send an email thanking his employees for their dedication and the extra effort they had made to get to work. Garth taught me that I should never be too busy to show people my appreciation and to acknowledge the positive things they do. It was the most valuable lesson that anyone could ever give me. And for that, I will always be grateful to Garth.

August 26, 1999 may have been one of the darkest days in New York City history, but it was one of the brightest days in my life thanks to Garth.

- End -

About the author: a 28-year-old native New Yorker who lives in Whitestone, Queens. A Chinese descent, a graduate from Townsend Harris High School in Queens in 1991 and from Boston University in 1995. Currently working at the Teachers' Retirement System of the City of New York (TRS), enjoying freelance writing and doing community service.

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