My Elevator Friend

by Kelsey Goff
Richmond, Virginia, USA

About two years ago while working downtown at our company’s headquarters I met a man I’ll call “Martin”. At the time, the company was downsizing. Again. Reducing the work force for six years caused the stock to go up, but it often had the opposite effect on morale.

I’m a morning person, and start my work day around 6:30 a.m. I get off work early for time with my loved ones. Almost every morning I saw Martin on the elevator. We were usually the only people there, so I made polite conversation as we rode to the 15th floor. We speculated on the weather, or inquired about each other’s weekend. Some days I saw him in the company cafeteria. Some days we left work at the same time, and I chatted with him and others in the elevator.

About six months after our daily elevator chats, Martin came to my office and asked if I had a minute to chat. Though we worked on the same floor, I’m sure he had to search to find me. I invited him to sit down. He said, “I wanted to come say goodbye. The company has let me go, today will be my last day.”

My Elevator Friend I didn’t know what to say. Though I was too familiar with saying goodbye to co-workers, it was never easy. Honestly, I usually ignored the event because I felt awkward and at a loss for words. I told him I was sorry and asked if there was anything I could do. He said, “No, I’ll be fine, I just wanted to take the time to thank you”. I was now confused. He explained that our daily talks had meant a lot to him.

Martin was a short, middle-aged man with a glandular problem. He was obese, used a cane to help maneuver, and was painfully shy. He thanked me not only for chatting with him in the mornings, but for speaking directly to him and others on the elevator, and for telling him a quick joke in the crowded cafeteria. It seems that no one had ever been his friend before — or if so they were standoffish to him in public.

He said he didn’t want to take up much of my time as he knew I was busy and he needed to pack his personal things. He had tears in his eyes as he shook my hand and left.

I’ve never seen him since, but I imagine he’s doing well. Meeting him changed my life. Now when I’m in a hurry, or have a bad day, I try extra hard to speak kindly to those around me. I remind myself that it’s just as easy to say something nice as to say something rude, and I’m awed at how very powerful our daily actions are.

Originally published as HeroicStories #221 on May 21, 2001

12 thoughts on “My Elevator Friend”

  1. I’m going to guess some won’t like this one, because the author sets herself up as the “hero”. Maybe, but then they’ll have missed the impact HE had on HER. Saying thank you is important, yet so many of us blow it off.

    Reply
    • I was laid off just a few weeks short of my 20th anniversary with the company. I instantly became a “leper”, and no one wanted to talk to me, including “former” friends!!! I had 20 minutes to clean out my desk and be gone………….

      I ultimately returned to the company, was promoted and finally got 40 years in and retired with a pretty good pension!

      It turned out OK! ….just wanted you to know…..

      Reply
  2. Thanks for the great reminder to be pleasant to those we encounter. We never know what their day or life is like and sometimes a smile and hello help to make their day.

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  3. I certainly do not want to appear a hero, either………..but, if you will take the time to really look at the service people around you, and just say a friendly greeting, and look at them, or ask how they are……….you will have another friend for life.
    A cafeteria we frequent has many such people, and I always talk to as many as I can………
    The other day, as I was standing in line, I felt a tap on my shoulder. turning around, I saw the floor sweeper, a young man, with this HUGE smile, saying HI and how are you to me, before I even saw him.
    WHAT A TREAT.
    Try it, you will like it.

    Reply
    • I agree that it is important to speak kindly to stranger we may meet in an elevator or at a restaurant. Many people don’t have a close friend, and they just need your smile and cheery greetings. Be friendly to people working hard in the buildings around you. It doesn’t cost you anything to ask if they are having a good day. Show you care.

      Reply
  4. WOW! This is a reminder of how small a thing sometimes to us, can be a huge thing to someone else. I need to remember that the rude person we sometimes get on the other end of the phone may be having a bad day, just like we all do. Kindness even in the face of rudeness can go a long way to changing someone else’s outlook and maybe their day. Caring and Kindness. Gotta remember to keep that in the forefront of my brain when in dealing with stressful situations like the irritated drivers on the interstate, and overworked and underpaid cashiers. Awesome story! Thank you!

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  5. When you get on an elevator try facing towards the back so you are looking at people and start a conversation. People don’t know what to do but it’s an almost sure bet that at least one will grin and talk back.

    We seem to think that we need to face the doors and keep our head down but what a great space to engage with other people! Try it, you might like it 🙂

    Reply
  6. I’m reminded of a quote from an excellent television series many years ago called Babylon 5.

    Captain Sheridan: I never forget the feeling of helplessness. I never thought there could be anything worse than being alone in the night.

    Delenn: But there is. Being alone in a crowd.

    There are many people who live their lives, immobilized by their own imperfections and insecurities, and being their own worst critics, think that others see them in shame.

    The reality is that we are all flawed in some way, but like all humans, we all need friendship and love to thrive.

    Taking that extra moment to acknowledge or take interest in someone else can really lift their day!

    Saying “Thank You” is an expression of gratitude for what they have done for you.

    Personalize it further by noticing or remembering their name. You’ll definitely make a good impression on them, and let them know they’re important!

    Reply
  7. I made a promise to myself as a teenager to try my best to treat every person with respect. I do not have to like them, but just respect that the other person is a fellow human being who is “doing the best they can with what they got”. I’m not always successful, but many decades later I try hard to keep my promise.

    Usually I do not know what that means to the other person, but as the author of this story, sometimes I am awed by the feedback I get on how important that is to the other person. Something that seems very small to me is huge to them.

    It can be scary to realize how much my attitude can affect someone I hardly know. That is what keeps me trying to keep my promise all these years. I see it as my responsibility as a human being on this planet.

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  8. Our small actions can bring an impact to others whether they are good or bad. Sometimes we are unaware of it. Today you bring comfort to others, who knows tomorrow you may need others to give you the same. There are lessons that can be picked up from this story. One of them is not to judge others because of their looks. Remember the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover”? Another one is, a simple smile to others does not hurt. Be friendly to all regardless of one’s status in life, physical appearance and many others.

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  9. There are too many Martins in this world and not nearly enough Kelsey’s. I have always tried to be a Kelsey but know I will make it a point to be one ever chance I get…Good luck Martin wherever you may be, You are needed.

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  10. This story was my introduction to Heroic Stories, years ago, and will always be my favorite! I was happy to see it again today! I am an assistant in a dental office, and have been blessed with being able to sit for an hour with our patients, some of whom have shared some amazing life stories! It is a wonderful chance to take some time and get to know someone! In this busy life, not everyone gets that, and it is such a gift! Thank you HS for introducing me to Martin, and the positivity of Heroic Stories! I need it!

    Reply

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