How to remember why you chose a career in hospitality, during a time when it's easy to forget
We’ve all been there. Scrolling through our phones in search of the perfect gift for our good friend or loved one. Something clever, symbolic, and thoughtful.
Years ago, before iPhone, I would walk aimlessly up and down the mall aisles, window shopping for gifts that inspired me. Laura and I would often go shopping together and would “ooohh” and “aahhh” over every little tchotchke that we spotted, dreaming about the days when we could swipe our credit cards a bit more frequently. We’ve always been great shopping buddies; I guess as former roommates we were in tune with one another's style and personal taste. Side note, have you ever noticed how sometimes our friends can convince us to try on outfits that we would never pick for ourselves, and somehow it usually becomes our new favorite item?
When we graduated college (from the University of Central Florida, Rosen School of Hospitality), we decided it would be fitting to commemorate the achievement and do a gift exchange. At the time we were working for a Marriott property together where we spent our first few years hustling and learning the hotel business while juggling a full school load. We decided to have our graduation party together, surrounded by our families, so it made sense to knock out the gift-giving to one another in advance of all the excitement.
We snuck into our little office’s at the Marriott and closed the door, giggling and excited to give each other our gifts. We were each so anxious for the other to open her present, and you could tell a lot of thought had gone into the surprise inside.
I opened my gift from Laura first, and inside was a beautiful white satin ceramic pineapple with a deliciously scented candle on the inside wrapped in yellow tissue paper. She spotted it through the window of our favorite candle store in the mall. Considering we were graduating from a hospitality school, it seemed only fitting to gift a pineapple, the universal symbol for hospitality. It was clever, symbolic, thoughtful, all summed up into one gift or “tchotchke” as we like to say.
I smirked and tried to hold my composure as I prepared for her to open her gift.
When she opened her gift bag, a burst of laughter engulfed the office as suddenly the same yellow tissue paper began to poke through the bag... Could it be? Did we somehow mind-meld and pick out the same gift?
There inside the bag was a beautiful white satin ceramic pineapple with a deliciously scented candle on the inside. Once again, it was clever, symbolic, thoughtful. Needless to say, we had a good laugh over it.
What’s most remarkable about this story is years later we still have the same candles in our homes on display. I’ve kept it all these years because of how much symbolism is behind the pineapple, and also it reminds me of that hysterical, ironic moment we shared. Most people are aware that the pineapple symbolizes hospitality - for us it also symbolizes friendship.
I share this story because if there was ever a time for our industry to remember that universal pillar of hospitality, it’s now, during an era when so many of our colleagues are struggling through professional hardship. It’s important to stay focused on the reason we joined this compassionate line of work. We have an opportunity to show friendship to every guest, and to one another every day.
The hospitality industry will come back, it’s just a matter of when and how. We can still practice our craft despite our current circumstances and prepare ourselves to be even better hosts for our guests one day.
In the meantime, no matter if you’ve been recalled, or furloughed, or laid off, try to find the hospitality, compassion, or friendship to offer someone.
Offer a pineapple to someone who needs a boost, and help each other celebrate what is GOOD.
Whatever it is, make it clever, symbolic, and thoughtful and it will no doubt be remembered.
To ponder: Who can you give your pineapple to? Can you share a story of an uplifting or thoughtful sentiment someone extended to you lately?