Friday, December 21, 2018

A Christmas Letter from Ellin Ostler, resident at Vista del Monte

Merry Christmas. I have decided to send you a Christmas letter about "Service" this year instead of a card. Service has brought a lot of joy into my life and I hope it will for you. Below are words I wrote in the 1980s as I was pondering on the meaning of service. They still represent my beliefs today.

"Service given freely with no expectation of something in return is one of the greatest sources of true joy and happiness. However, service which is not given freely and unconditionally will bring resentment and unhappiness."

I have hired, trained, and supervised hundreds of employees during my life. During their training, I told them a story about how I learned to make a seemingly boring job fun. The story goes like this:

I had a part-time job as an usher at the BYU Marriot Center where the BYU basketball team play their games. I was assigned, the VIP entrance each year. Most of the people had season tickets and sat in the same seat each year. It was a boring job because everyone knew where his or her seats were and I did not have anything to do.

One year, I decided I was going to do something different. As people came to my entrance, I stood right in front of them as they came in, looked into their eyes, gave them a big smile, and said, "Hi, how are you tonight?" They were shocked and surprised. I am sure they thought I was a little weird. I continued to do it each game during the basketball season;

To my surprise, after a few games, many of the people tried to beat me to the punch by saying "Hi," and wishing me well first. After a few games, they began to treat me as if I was one of their good friends. Some of them even brought me food to eat during the game.

Sometimes, I would see these people downtown away from the Center, and they would come up to me and wanted to know how I was doing. They often had to remind me where I had met them. I was shocked about how something as simple as a smile and saying hi could make such a difference in my relationship with people. I learned from this experience that I could make a boring job fun just by smiling and saying hi. I also learned that it is impossible for me to give more than I receive when I freely give of myself.

I had another experience when I was working at UCSB. I supervised a group of students who were responsible for the student union building when it was open. The only time we could all meet for a weekly staff meeting was at 7:00am. Most of the students at UCSB stay up late and are not use to going to a meeting so early in the morning. I decided to show my appreciation to them by bringing them something to eat. At first, they were very appreciative of my gesture.

These students also worked with the student union catering manager. The manager decided to show his appreciation by fixing them a breakfast for .the meeting.

Before long, the students started to complain when they didn't get what they expected. What started out to be gift of appreciation turned out to be an obligation for me and the catering manager. We decided to stop giving them food because it had become an expectation. The students were disappointed, but I think they learned an important lesson about being grateful. I experienced the joy of giving until it became an obligation.

I have decided to experience the joy of giving as often as possible by freely giving of my time and talents. I have also decided that when giving becomes an obligation or an expectation, I will find another way to give. I hope you experience the joy of giving this Christmas.

May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

-Ellin Ostler, Vista del Monte resident

Vista del Monte Retirement Community in Santa Barbara’s Hidden Valley serves seniors from all walks of life in Southern California.


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