Faith and Family

How do you measure a life?

March 21, 2024

Three women’s stories who exemplify putting people first, just as we want to do in our dog training business. People first dog trainers.

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Net worth?  Projects accomplished?  Goals completed?  All easy-to-see measurables. We want to be dog trainers who put people first, but the impact of such a mindset can’t really be measured.

What if we could measure a life by the positive impact we had on other people?  Knowing that metric is an impossibility…but what if?

Angie, Gail, and Lilly all have me thinking about this.  These three women have been spinning in my head these last couple weeks. 

Angie, the Winco Cashier: Lift Where You Stand

Angie is a cashier at our local grocery store.  She’s worked there for years, on aisle 14.  I can hear her voice before I even line up to check out.  Or is it her laugh?  And if I hear her, I head straight to her line.  Even if it’s the longest. 

So why do I seek out Angie?  Because she’s always sure to brighten my day.  Heck, it brightens my day just watching her interact with those customers ahead of me.  The entire experience is a joy.  And if any part of grocery shopping can be a joy, I’m all about it.

Observing Angie

I’ve seen the way she calls everyone “Friend” and 100% means it.  She smiles at everyone, looks them right in the eye, and asks how their day is going.  I’ve seen as she realized a customer had a young son that was deaf.  Angie excitedly said, “Wait, wait!  I know a little sign!”  And then she signed just a few things to the little boy who absolutely lit up.  

During Easter I’ve seen her pass out personally-purchased Easter toys to kids coming through her line.  A couple times I’ve heard her happily speaking Spanish to customers.  When I asked her how she learned Spanish, she replied with a hearty laugh and said her grandma always had Spanish soap operas playing on the tv when she was a kid. 

Just before Christmas I went to buy our annual bags of cereal for the kids.  Cereal is a treat we generally only have at Christmas.  Each year we get a bag of cereal per person, which has grown to now mean TEN BAGS of cereal.  So, I’m going through Angie’s line with basically a cart full of cereal.  When Angie realized I hadn’t seen the big boxes of Lucky Charms on sale for $1, she ran and grabbed 3 for me.  Literally…ran. 

The people just in front of me and just behind me kept saying that Angie is the best and they were happy for me to get my $1 Lucky Charms.  Kindness begats kindness.

Being Good at Her Job AND Putting People First

And lest you think she must be the slowest cashier EVER; she’s not.  She somehow puts people first AND is dang good at her cashier job.  She fast!  (I don’t believe she often runs off to grab people extra Lucky Charms).  I’m not worried about getting in her line when it’s the longest.  I’ll still be out the door in no time, and with a smile on my face.

Each time I walk out of that store after interacting with Angie, I think of the impact she is making in people’s lives. 

She lifts where she stands, even if where she stands is a grocery checkout line.

Gayle Tales

Then there’s Gayle. 

I don’t know her personally, but I ran into a little Instagram account her daughter made.  And I cried happy tears. 

She’s quite quirky and has interesting choices of dress, but a heart of gold.  I see how she lifts where she stands and puts people first.  Check it out!  She’s super cute!

My Mom, Lilly Whitaker: People First

Then there’s my mom: the person who has really occupied my mind the last few weeks.  I wish everyone could have a Lilly Whitaker in their lives.  She is so bright!

My Mom, Lilly, with our baby John

Jason mentioned my parents in this blog post, but I want to introduce you again to my Mom, Lilly Whitaker My Mom greets everyone with a cheery “Good morning!” no matter what time of day it is because morning is her favorite time of day, so it might as well be morning all day long.

My Mom is everyone’s greatest cheerleader.  Although in her 80s and I will still call her if I have any happy news because she will happily celebrate with me. 

She calls strangers “Friends I haven’t met yet.”

A screenshot of Mom smiling and saying hi to our kids on a facetime call.

As soon as I was in kindergarten, she became a school bus driver.  It was the best!  Right after school I would head to bus #15 and sit on the engine right next to the driver’s seat and chat with my mom all the way home.  She was my best friend and I was so lucky.  She would drive the bus for my field trips.  I loved having her there! 

The only thing I didn’t like about her driving bus was when the kids would tease and call her “Lilly Pad.”  I felt pretty defensive of my mom, but she would just smile and give the kids a compliment or something.  She didn’t seem to mind.  Although she wouldn’t tolerate being sworn at or talked down to because “that’s just not how we treat people.”

I am the youngest of her 10 children and she taught us all that “Happiness is a choice.”  And with 10 kids to raise, I’m sure there was always something she could have been negative or overwhelmed about.  She chose not to.  She has a ready smile and always lived her mantra of choosing happiness.

It’s all about the People

In her retirement, she goes around visiting people all week long.  I called her this past week right when she was finishing visiting a friend at the hospital.  That sort of thing is normal for her.   

I have been to church with my parents many times the past couple of years when my mom leaves early to pick up 3 rambunctious little girls that want to go to church but their parents don’t.  My parents work with them through an hour-long, need-to-sit-still meeting before they take them to primary (a class for children).  Then they take them home only to do it all again the next week.  Pretty amazing for 82-years-old!

Chuck’s Story

Although I’m sure many of the stories of visits and interactions with my mom will never be told, I was blessed to hear one recently.  Surprisingly through our business of Cornerstone Dog Training.

Throughout my childhood, there was an extremely shy and quiet man named Chuck that lived in our little town.  Chuck was super sweet, but truly the most quiet and slow-to-speak man I have ever met. Chuck was never married.  I assumed he was probably too shy to ever ask a girl on a date.  But he always had a dog.

I was completely surprised when I ran into Chuck near where I live now, 3 hours from my childhood home.  We chatted, with me asking most of the questions, of course.  I was surprised to find he lived near us.  He asked for some help with his dog who would pull on walks, so we arranged a time to get together that week.

The sweetest part of that little training session was finishing up with Chuck and his dog but I could feel Chuck hesitating.  I gave him space and a little time, then what he really wanted to say came out.

Your Parents Are Heroes

“Your parents mean a lot to me.  They are real heroes.  Like the time my sweet Sally died.”

He could tell by the look on my face that I didn’t know what he was talking about.  Surprised, he said, “You don’t know about Sally?”  I had to tell him, no, I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.

He proceeded to tell me the story of the dog he had in Kanosh for many years that was his best friend.  He totally expected I would remember the dog because he said it went around with his everywhere.  I guess in my self-centered teenage years, I didn’t notice.

Sally was older and acting sick one day.  He laid with her on his lap on the living room floor when she died in his arms.  He told me, “I didn’t know what to do.  But within 10 minutes your parents knocked on the door.  They came in and sat with me and Sally for nearly an hour and just let me be sad.  Then your dad helped me to bury her in the backyard.  They are my heroes.”

I had never heard that story before.  My parents aren’t ones to tell me such things, but I’m sure glad Chuck did. 

My parents are my heroes. My heroes who put people first.

People First Dog Trainers

And that’s the kind of dog trainers we want to be.  People-first dog trainers.  Dogs do an amazing job of loving people as they are.  They also excel at bringing us joy, especially as we learn through training how to communicate with them.  We find that as we put people first and teach them how to have a better relationship with their dogs, that’s the sweet spot.

One of our favorite quotes is from Thomas S. Monson who said:

“Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”

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