A ccording to the name embroidered on his navy-blue coveralls, the groundskeeper who worked around the hotel’s pool area during my first morning in Las Vegas was “Big Mike.” As I plopped down in a chaise lounge trying to make sense of the guidebooks and lists of things to see that tumbled from my tote bag, I said “Good morning” to him.


“Pool’s not open yet,” he mumbled, looking surprised that I’d even noticed he was there. “That’s O.K.,” I replied. “I just need to sort through all this stuff and figure out where to start and how to get there.” “First time in “Vegas?” he asked, still not looking up from the greenery he was trimming. I smiled. “How could you tell?” Well, the easiest way to get around is a $5 bus pass that will take you anywhere on The Strip for 24 hours. You can get on and off the bus as many times as you want. There’s a bus stop right across the street. And you’re going to want to change into some walking shoes.”


Before 1 left the pool, I had tips from “Big Mike “ on the best way to get started, where to eat and when the living statues at the Venetian Hotel would he performing. While waiting for a bus, I chatted with a woman who was on her way home with a pizza after working her shift for a time-share company at one of the hotels. She helped pass the time with stories about the Hollywood stars she’d met while working, and she shared her personal take on the slot machines that have the best odds. During a bus ride, I met a really nice couple who were veteran Vegas visitors. They gave me some great suggestions on the best shows to see.


MAKING A DIFFERENCE


I ran into “Big Mike” a few more times in the four days we were in Vegas and introduced him to my husband, John, who had not been with me the first day because he was working. John just shook his head and smiled as we walked inside. After more than 30 years of marriage, I still don’t think he truly understands my talking to the invisible people, hut he knows how important it is to my life.


I’m indebted to one of my sisters, who first used that phrase, “talking to the invisible people.” She was describing a stay in Hershey, Pennsylvania, when she thanked the hotel maid for the chocolate mint that was on her pillow. My sister told this stranger that the treat really hit the spot when she arrived at the hotel late the night before, without having eaten dinner. In response, the woman smiled. That night my sister found two chocolate mints on her pillow.


Talking to these invisible people doesn’t imply seances in a candle-filled room or getting up early to search a dewy forest for leprechauns. It’s simply taking the time to acknowledge the existence of people who stand patiently on the sidelines of our lives.


Each one of us needs to receive acknowledgment and appreciation; it’s as basic to life as food and water. It takes so little effort to notice people in our frame of reference. Yet how often we simply overlook the existence of people we encounter: the person who cleans the hotel room, the landscaper who trims trees at the office complex, the cashier at the grocery store, the efficient customer-service representative. We expect these people to take care of us. Directly or indirectly, we pay them to take care of us. But we often treat them as if they are invisible. What a great shame what a missed opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life and he rewarded by a smile in the process!


COMMON COURTESY


I think my two sisters and I picked up from our mother this trait of talking to people who arc often ignored. Anyone in my family will confirm that I talk to everybody, from the crossing guard on the corner to the lifeguard in the kiddie pool. I can’t think of a more wonderful attribute to pass on to our four children, even though they’ve questioned my friendliness over the years.


When our youngest child, Becca, was three, she witnessed me saying “Good morning” to the woman who held the door for us as we entered a toy store. Becca chided me for talking to a stranger: On Sesame Street, Cookie Monster and Ernie advised viewers not to talk to strangers. I tried to explain the difference between the scary kind of talking to strangers and the simple day-to-day courtesy of being kind to folks around us. But I don’t think I did a particularly fine job of delineating the circum the subject. The lines have always been a bit shaky on this subject.


When she was in elementary school, Becca was with me at work one snowy afternoon. Her school had canceled classes because of the weather. As the afternoon progressed, the snow piled up. When I finally decided it was justifiably late enough to head for home before the roads became totally impassable, we trudged through the parking lot to the car. No one was there, but our windshield had already been cleared. Becca just smiled and asked, “You’ve been talking to the invisible people again, haven’t you?”


HER MOTHER’S DAUGHTER


When Becca was a freshman in college, she knew her way around campus long before most of the other new students. It seems that she made friends with Martha, a disabled cafeteria worker, she assisted when the woman was picking up some flatware that had scattered. Martha, who had been with the school for over 30 years, knew her way around. When Becca relayed this story to me, I knew deep down in my soul that she was going to be just fine away from home because she knew how to talk to the invisible people. And I couldn’t be prouder.





                                                             Victoria Bahr is a freelance writer and

                                                             Weight Watchers leader who once taught

                                                               preschool. The wife and mother of four

                                                              grown children says she is “thankful for

                                                              both God’s blessings and my family’s

                                                              support of my writing over the years.



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