Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Christmas Story

Sometimes it’s painful to turn on the news this time of year.  It seems like there is something about the Christmas season that brings out the worst in people.  Or maybe the selfishness that is endemic to humanity is thrown into sharper contrast against the ideals of “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”  Sometimes it seems as if the whole season is nothing but greed and guilt, disillusionment and broken dreams, wrapped up with a pretty ribbon.

But sometimes, things work out just like they should.  Sometimes, the simple kindness of a complete stranger reminds you that the Christmas spirit is alive and well, in ways that can’t be bought with money.  This story, told in the emails below, is about Christmas.  Enjoy.

______________________________
Thomas Wilson
November 17, 2014
To zoo info

Dear Denver Zoo,

I have a request with a story behind it.  If you aren’t in the mood for a story, feel free to skip to the last paragraph for the request.  I know how busy you must be this time of year.

Three years ago, my wife was very sick at P/SL Hospital, trying to recover from a burst appendix and the loss of our son (she was 23 weeks pregnant when her appendix burst), and I was staying at the Ronald McDonald house just down the road from you.  Over our two-month ordeal, Sarah suffered many complications, many of them life-threatening, all them extremely painful.  In addition to all that, we were separated from our then-two-year-old daughter for almost two months.  It was a lonely, dark, painful time for my wife.

I had promised Sarah that I would not go to the zoo without her, even though I had a free pass from the RMH, and I frequently passed by on walks around the park.  I would go back to the hospital and tell Sarah that I heard birds screaming or lions roaring.  Sarah’s favorite animal is the giraffe, so on one of my walks I stopped in your gift shop and bought her a stuffed baby giraffe.  For a person in extreme pain, who couldn’t quite bring herself to believe that she was ever going to get out of that hospital room, this gift meant a lot.  Sarah would snuggle with that baby giraffe to comfort her in the loss of our baby.  We would talk about how fun it would be when she got better and I could take her to see the real thing.  It was something to hold onto, something real, something to hope for.  And almost a year later, I finally took her.  We have been there twice since then.  The giraffes were awesome.  

Recently, as happens in a house full of children and animals, that baby giraffe was torn apart by a playful puppy.  Sarah cried—that little stuffed animal had some serious memories behind it.  It isn’t something that can be replaced, but I would like to do the next best thing.

I have looked around your site and can’t find a link to your gift shop, which makes me think that you don’t sell gifts online.  Still, if it is possible, I would like to ask if you could send my wife one of those baby giraffe stuffed animals.  I know I could find one online, but that wouldn’t be the same—I need one from the Denver Zoo.  I would be happy to pay for it and the postage, of course, and whatever packaging fee for your trouble.  Please let me know if this is possible.

Thanks for your consideration.
Tom Wilson
Lander, Wyoming
______________________________

Marlina Schleuger
December 1, 2014
To me

Hello Mr. Wilson,
I can only imagine how sad your wife must have felt when the baby giraffe was torn apart.  I would love to assist you in the purchase to help replace the baby giraffe.  Do you know what size the giraffe was, how much it was and who the company who made the giraffe is?

We have a $9.99 fuzzy giraffe from Aurora that is approx. 6 to 8 inches and I have a 12” cuddlekin that sits and neck stands tall that is $16.99.  And I also have a large stuffed giraffe that is on promotion normally $30 for $17.99.

Please email me back or call the store and we would love to help with your purchase and replace your memory.  

Happy holidays to you and your wife Mr. Wilson!
Regards,
Marlina Schleuger
Retail Operations Manager-Denver Zoo
Service Systems Associates, Inc.
______________________________

Thomas Wilson
December 1, 2014
To Marlina

Marlina, thanks for your kind reply!  I believe it was the 6-8 incher that Sarah had before.  I don’t know the brand.  It was very soft and sort of floppy.  Do they have a Denver Zoo logo or tag on them?  I want her to know it’s the real deal.

Tom
______________________________

Marlina Schleuger
December 1, 2014
To me

Hi Thomas,

Yes we have the super soft giraffe somewhat floppy and I would be happy to put a Denver Zoo Medallion and Holiday ribbon that says Happy Holidays from the Denver Zoo.  Where would you like it shipped?  And because of your touching story, I would love to buy it for you and your wife.  Please let me know; thanks!
Regards,
Marlina
______________________________

Thomas Wilson
December 1, 2014
To Marlina

Wow…I don’t know what to say.  That is very sweet of you, and that would make it mean even more.  If you don’t mind, I will have you ship it to me at work, because if Sarah sees a box from the Denver Zoo in the mail, she’ll get suspicions.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Tom
______________________________

Marlina Schleuger
December 1, 2014
To me

No, thank you for the touching story and I am so sorry for the loss of your baby.  I hope the baby giraffe helps to comfort and bring joy.  I wish you both happy holidays.

Marlina
______________________________

Thomas Wilson
December 5, 2014
To KMSSA info

Dear KMSSA,

I am writing to request contact information for the supervisor of Marlina Schleuger, Retail Operations Manager of the Denver Zoo; I would like to inform said supervisor about a recent interaction I had with Ms. Schleuger.

I have searched your website and am not sure whom I need to contact.  If you could point me in the right direction, I would be most grateful.

Thank you.

Sincerely, 
Thomas Wilson
Lander, Wyoming
______________________________

Mark Kathman
December 7, 2014
To me

Hello Mr. Wilson,

My name is Mark Kathman, and I have management oversight responsibilities for the Food and Retail Operations at the Denver Zoo.  I was forwarded your email request that you submitted to our info email on our website.  Let me thank you for reaching out to us—feedback (positive or otherwise) only helps us improve and work towards achieving our “EXTRAordinary” service goals.  That said, it is my responsibility to receive feedback and to address accordingly.

Please feel free to contact me at your convenience to share.

Respectfully,
Mark Kathman
Regional Vice President
Service Systems Associates, Inc.
______________________________

Thomas Wilson
9 December, 2015
To Mark Kathman

Dear Mr. Kathman,

Thank you for contacting me so promptly.  Far be it for me to tell you how to do your job, sir, but you need to give this person a raise.  If people like this are normal for your company, you have a remarkable company indeed.  I have attached our correspondence below.

Merry Christmas—
Thomas Wilson
Lander, Wyoming

[I attached my conversation with Marlina, which you have just read]
______________________________

Mark Kathman
December 9, 2014
To me

Mr. Wilson,

Thank you for sharing this heartwarming story.  I am deeply saddened for the tragedy that your family went through.  As a husband and father, I was quite touched by the story—I definitely held my wife and daughters a little longer after reading this last night.  And, as a man who strives to be a servant leader, I was even more touched by your story, and extremely proud of Marlina’s response.  

I do believe that I am part of a remarkable company, and stories like yours only validate this.  With your permission, I would like to share this story with the entire company for a couple reasons:  to recognize Marlina with her peers for making the extra effort and doing the absolute right thing; and also to share this as an example with all of our employees to never take any guest interaction for granted.  For some, a stuffed animal may just represent a simple souvenir of a (hopefully) fun day, but to others it could represent a priceless symbol of remembrance—as is the case with your wife, Sarah.  What a remarkable opportunity we would have to utilize this as a mechanism for training.  Please advise if you would allow us to share.

And as for Marlina—rest assured, you can bet that the recognition I mentioned above is not the only thing she will receive for this.

Thank you again for sharing, and Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Mark Kathman
Regional Vice President
Service Systems Associates, Inc.
______________________________


A few days before Christmas, I received an elaborately wrapped box from the Denver Zoo gift shop.  On Christmas morning, we were delighted and shocked to find not one, but three different stuffed giraffes in the box, all wearing “Happy Holidays from the Denver Zoo” ribbons.

Next time you are saddened by news stories about people getting trampled in the rush for the latest fad toy, remember the kindness of a complete stranger in a big city gift shop (whom I really hope is enjoying a big raise).  Remember, this Christmas season, that there are still people out there for whom “Peace on Earth, good will toward men” is not just an ideal.  Remember that there are still people out there who Get It.

Remember that you have a choice, every day, to be one of those people.

*******

2 comments: