What is a good lifestyle, really? It’s style over amount. So what is style? It’s an art, the art of living. You can’t buy style with money, and you can’t buy good taste with money. You can only buy more with money. Lifestyle is culture—the appreciation of good music, dance, art, sculpture, literature, plays and living well. It’s a taste for the fine, the unique, the beautiful.
A respectable lifestyle should also involve rewarding excellence wherever you find it by not taking the small things for granted. And with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I wanted to illustrate this with one of my favorite personal anecdotes:
Many years ago, my friend and I were on a trip to Carmel, Calif., for some shopping and exploring. On the way, we stopped at a service station, and as soon as we parked our car in front of the pumps, a young man, about 18 or 19, came bouncing out to the car and with a big smile asked, “Can I help you?”
“Yes,” I answered. “A full tank of gas, please.” Mind you, this was when gas stations had both full- and self-serve pumps. Still, I wasn’t prepared for what followed. This young man checked every tire, washed every window—even the sunroof—singing and whistling the whole time. We couldn’t believe the quality of service and his upbeat attitude.
When he brought the bill, I said, “Hey, you really have taken good care of us. I appreciate it.”
“I really enjoy working,” he said. “It’s fun for me, and I get to meet nice people like you.” This kid was really something.
“We’re on our way to Carmel, and we want to get some milkshakes,” I told him. “Can you tell us where we can find the nearest Baskin-Robbins?”
“It’s just a few blocks away,” he said, giving us the directions. Then he added, “Don’t park out front—park around to the side so your car won’t get sideswiped.” What a kid!
At the ice cream shop, we ordered milkshake—hers, mine and a third one. We drove back to the station. Our young friend dashed out to greet us. “Hey, I see you got your milkshakes!”
“Yes, and this one is for you.”
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His mouth fell open. “For me?”
“Sure. With all the fantastic service you gave us, I couldn’t leave you out of the milkshake deal.”
“Wow!” He was simply astonished.
As we drove off, I could see him in my rearview mirror, just standing there, grinning from ear to ear.
Now, what did this little act of generosity cost me? Only about $2. You see, it’s not the money; it’s the style.
Well, I must have been feeling especially creative that day, because upon our arrival in Carmel, I drove straight to a flower shop. As we walked inside, I said to the florist, “I’d like to buy one long-stemmed rose.”
The florist, a rather unromantic type, replied, “We sell them by the dozen.”
“I don’t need a dozen,” I said, “just one please.”
“Well,” he replied haughtily, “it will cost you $2.”
“Wonderful,” I exclaimed. “There’s nothing worse than a cheap rose.”
Selecting the rose with some deliberation, I handed it to my friend. She was so impressed! And the cost? Just $2. Later that day, she looked up and said, “Jim, I must be the only woman in Carmel today carrying a rose.” And I believe she probably was.
Can you imagine the opportunity to create magic with those around you?
Can you imagine the opportunity to create magic with those around you—and all for the cost of a few dollars, some imagination and attention? Remember, it is not the amount that matters but the thought and care that often has the greatest impact upon those you love.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.