Let’s celebrate unsung heroes

It’s the height of summer in Dubai and even though it’s far from my first summer in the region, the humidity and temperatures still take their toll. This summer, unlike some of my previous summers, I’m “on the floor”, checking operations on the drive court of a hotel, walking from one sales appointment to another, and generally going though more than one shirt per day.

This is the time when you start to appreciate small mercies like a short break in a properly air-conditioned tearoom or being able to park you car in a covered parking space, so you don’t have to wear gloves before touching the steering wheel or the seatbelt buckle upon your return.

A few hot summers ago in a hotel somewhere between old and new Dubai, an unsung hero was born. One of my bell boys spend virtually every day outside in the scorching heat assisting arriving and departing guests, valeting cars, and ensuring that, despite very bad local traffic conditions, the hotel’s drive court remained accessible and presentable. He also did so with seemingly never diminishing cheerfulness and energy. Indeed, he attracted so much praise from guests and colleagues that, when we received information about the first edition of what is now one of the most influential and highly regarded awards for hoteliers and hotel staff in the region, nobody had any hesitations to enter the gentleman in the category of “Unsung Hero” for his contributions to the hotel operations. Some time later and in the air-conditioned comfort of one of the city’s foremost luxury hotels, the bell boy walked away with a nice trophy and prize.

I remembered this event a few times this summer when I was out and about in the sweltering heat and it got me thinking about unsung heroes in our industries and our communities overall. I’m sure that we all know a fair few, but we often simply don’t really see them or appreciate their work. The gentleman who cleans your car on a daily basis, a handyman who doesn’t hesitate to deal with a broken sewage pipe in your hotel rather than waiting for backup and equipment, the many guys who keep our cities’ streets and parks clean while we drive past them in nicely chilled cars…

We should all take some time out of our busy daily lives and “see” more and appreciate more, too. It doesn’t take much at all, often a “Thank You” or a cold bottle of water handed over with a smile is all it takes. It won’t cost you anything and it won’t instantly make you a better person, but it’ll tell the person on the receiving end that their job is appreciated and that it’s been noticed.

If you can do more, it’s an obvious bonus and can make a real difference in your company or local community. This year, Ramadan again fell into the hottest time of the year, and I joined forces with other Dubai-based restaurant startups, hoteliers, food bloggers, and others, to run the annual #fillingtheblues Ramadan iftar campaign, which saw us giving out iftar meals to laborers in Dubai’s TECOM neighbourhood. Contrary to some comments I received, we didn’t do this to replace or substitute the food the boys in blue receive from their employers, but simply because we wanted to give back and show our support for the folks who literally build the city our businesses operate in.

It was sweaty work, but totally worth it, and we left with many smiles, laughter, good memories, and – perhaps most importantly – a newfound appreciation of the many unsung heroes around us.

I challenge you to give it a try and see how many unsung heroes you can spot today around you. It’ll open your eyes and it will make your workplace or neighborhood a better place. One smile, handshake, or bottle of water at a time.

By Martin Kubler