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Ah-that smile. Kristy Engel immediately lights up the room when she enters. Though she is fluent in several languages, she instinctually knows that a simple smile bridges all languages barriers.

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.”

                                      ~ William Arthur Ward

Her smile creates instant likability and ignites the spark that makes her so remarkable. If you could hear her life story you would agree that it is part of what makes her special. From her tumultuous journey on the way to finding her calling as a nurse practitioner to being within hours of death while winning the battle over Typhoid and Dengue Fever to the hundreds of thousands of lives she has since touched over the last eleven years in the medical fields of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Kristy’s life is a book in the making. But it is not her story that makes her special or what provides a take away for each of us. Rather, it is the qualities that she displays in her drive to find out for herself and to demonstrate to others that difference just one person, with necessary support, can make in the lives of those around us.

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Yes, Kristy’s smile makes her delightful and welcoming –it seems to reach deep into the recipient; and as Anthony D’Angelo states, “A smile is the key that fits the lock of everybody’s heart.” Her smile is the key that grabs your attention and reveals there is a caring person inside. But a key is just a key -just an instrument to open a door. A smile simply creates an opportunity to walk through the doorway that few enter -going from something fleeting to something more meaningful –a connection with another person.

As Jeb Blount shares in People Buy You, “The most insatiable human desire, our deepest craving, is to feel valued, appreciated, and important.” Kristy’s smile makes her very likable but it is her ability to listen and to make you realize that you are valued that draws you in and makes the magical connection.

As Blount points out, “Quite simply, the more you listen, the more others feel connected to you.” It is listening that makes others feel valued, appreciated, and important.

If your aim is to make a difference in your work and in the lives of others, as Kristy’s life demonstrates, it is connecting with others that offers the gateway to success. Connecting creates conversations and conversations lead to questions which show that you care and are listening, and very importantly, questions reveal problems. As author Thomas Freese shares, “A question you ask is more important than anything you will ever say.”

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It is through problem solving that connections are brought to a higher level because it shows that you truly care about the person and have created something beautiful-a solution to another person’s problem and that is endearing. As engineer and architect Richard Buckminster stated, “When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”

What can only one person do? As Leo Buscaglia is quoted, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Kristy adds, “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, in the moment you’re given.”

For Kristy the cumulative small touches have produced wonderful results. Over the course of the last eleven years Kristy has been able to help solve medical problems for over 500,000 underprivileged individuals living in sugarcane villages of the Dominican Republic along serving nearly 18,000 individuals in Haiti after last year’s earthquake disaster. It is only through connecting with patients and volunteers, while building trust, that Kristy has been able to be an instrument in helping solve the vast amount of problems of malnutrition, parasites, health, and dental needs of the wonderful people of the island.

What can you, just one person, accomplish through working at being more likeable, creating connections, solving problems, and building trust?

I think if we apply Mother Theresa’s insight, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love,” the answer is each of us can all make a significant difference in our jobs, our families, our relationships, and our communities while gaining the success that really matters.

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