I admire people who take action on a problem versus blaming others or tossing it to someone else.   Don Ness, the former mayor of Duluth, MN shared the matra “Own it-Fix it” with his team every day.  I wish the staff at Auntie Irene’s assisted living center acted in the same manner.

My wife Susan took care of her Aunt Irene in her later years.  We placed Irene in an assisted living center and in time she adjusted really well.  During one of our early visits, while Susan was taking care of some paperwork at the front desk, I sat on the couch in the reception area to watch a football game on the big screen TV.  On the other end of the couch sat an older resident.

“How’s the game going?” I asked.

“Not so bad. Minnesota is winning, at least for now.” He answered.

“I’m Mark.”

“Hello Mark, my name is Scotty.  Do you live here?”

Ugh…I didn’t think I looked old enough to be a resident…I answered, “No Scotty, our Aunt Irene just moved in.  We are here to get her settled in.  How do you like it here?”

“Well, I like it.  But here is the deal, I signed up for the meal plan which is 3 meals a day for 7 days a week.  21 meals.  On Sunday, they don’t serve breakfast, just brunch.  They count brunch as two meals.  I am paying for 21 but I am only getting 20 meals.  I am 4 meals short a month, that’s 48 meals a year that I pay for but don’t get.  Do the math.”

My only response, “Bummer.”

Susan waved me over to the front desk and I said goodbye to Scotty and wished him good luck on that meal deal.  As I got to the front desk, Susan asked, “Did you make a new friend?”

“Yeah, cool old guy named Scotty.  Pretty much a math wizard.”

The front desk receptionist asked, “Did Scotty tell you about all the breakfast meals he is missing every Sunday?”

“As a matter of fact, he did,” I answered.

She added, “He tells that to everyone!”

As we left I thought to myself, if Scotty tells every single person he meets the story about his missing breakfast…instead of the staff rolling their eyes over Scotty’s issue, what if they ‘owned it and fixed it’?

What would it take for a staff member to bring a hard-boiled egg, a toasted bagel and a cup of coffee up to Scotty’s room every Sunday morning?  Scotty would be happy and a small gesture on the part of the staff would go a long way to create a culture of service to others.

Problems that are not a big deal to us can be a big deal to someone else.  A small action on our part can make a big difference to others.  I am hoping that someday, Scotty gets his Sunday morning egg and bagel.