A dose of happiness even from a person tending the comfort room brings a whole lot of difference to anyone’s day. Unconditionally bringing smiles to random faces is The Happy Zone’s Valerie Washington. In this episode, Jesse Cole talks to Valerie about how she started sharing her fun factor at the Charlotte Douglas Airport. Her positive attitude is enough to make you want to be infected by her glowing energy. She walks us through how she makes people happy and how The Happy Zone was conceptualized and created. Join Jesse and Valerie as they discuss more about the benefits of happiness in our lives.
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Spreading Love And Happiness At The Happy Zone With Valerie Washington
We have a first on the show, an interview at the airport with the one and only Valerie Washington. I want to share the story of how I met you. This was a few months ago. I was coming by and I heard this unbelievable singing coming out of a little newsstand. What newsstand do you work for?
I work in the Today store.
You were singing and happy about the Happy Zone that I immediately took a video and there were other people filming and it was fascinating. You made a difference in me. Every time I come here, I want to see you and talk to you. You are doing business way differently than I’ve ever seen. You’re singing. Valerie, I’m honored and excited to talk to you because a lot of people need to know what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Please share a little bit of your story and how you started even before you got into this because you sing every day, don’t you?
Yeah, every day, even when I’m not at work. The thing is when I started this job, I used to work in the warehouse. It’s all in God’s creation that he had me to do. When I came up on the floor I was like, “I want to treat people the way I want to be treated.” Sometimes you don’t always get that. My thing is I’m a pastor. I would say, “Treat people with kindness, love and care.” I do love people and before I got saved and everything, I wasn’t that kind of person. I always love people but not the way that I am now. I’m doing things different from God’s point of view, not mine. When I came up here, people come by and I said, “Let me see how many people I can make happy.”
I’m already happy because I figured you could only make other people happy if you’re truly happy yourself.” I had to work on this and say, “I’m a happy person. Let’s see what I can do to other people.” When they come in, I said, “Good morning.” Everybody deserves a good morning. I said, “Good morning. How are you doing?” If they don’t speak I’ll say, “If you don’t want to talk, wave your hand, it’s still a good morning.” People started coming in and saying, “I appreciate your happiness and your joy.” I said, “I do this because this is what I would like people to do for me.” One thing led to another. I have many passengers now that come in. If I’m not at work, they asked my coworkers, “The singing lady’s not here?”
“Where’s Valerie? Where’s the singing lady?”
They do that. Even my boss, the one I was telling you about, she’ll tell me, “Valerie, they were asking for you.” It’s all good because when I talked to people, I said, “Don’t let life trials make you bitter. Let them make you better.” What I’m saying to you is change your mindset. My New Year’s resolution is to love more people than I did in 2019. To do that, I have to be able to let them know the love that I have in me, I can share that with them.
It’s amazing. Where is it now? You’ve told me some stories. People are traveling from all over the airport to find you. What are the most cameras that have been up at one time?
Maybe about 8 or 9 in the store at one time. They’re all filming and some of them asked, “Would it be all right?” I don’t mind if it’s going to make them happy. It’s about happiness. That’s why it’s called the Happy Zone. I changed the name to the Happy Zone. This is what Today store is. One of the guys came, he did a video and he sent it to Today Show. She put it on the air. One of my aunts saw it and she said, “I was cleaning and I heard this singing. I looked up and it was you.” I was like, “I hadn’t even seen it yet.” I looked it up and I was like, “My God.” The thing of it is they said, “You need a tip.” I said, “No, I don’t need a tip because my payment is to see your smiling face when you leave.” It’s not monetary. It is the joy of seeing you leave out of here happy. That’s tip enough for me. I love doing that. I love to see people happy. I love to make people happy.
Where did it start? Because you look around. You go around all this airport, all the other shops. You go like, “I’m not going to start singing. I’m not going to do it.” You’re talking to the guy in a yellow tuxedo. We’re speaking the same language. Not a lot of people will do that. Where did this start? Because you mentioned, it started in the bathroom every day.
I was a bathroom attendant.
How long ago was that?
This was in 2009 at the airport right here. I would go in every Concourse. I sang wherever I went. They switched us around to different restrooms. I’d be on E1, B or H, it was different Concourses. B Concourse was number one. It’s the busiest one. They put me down there and people come in and I said, “Welcome to Valerie’s happy restroom. Don’t worry, be happy,” stuff like that. They got videos. It changes the whole atmosphere. Whatever they were thinking negatively, it changes to a positive when they come into that restroom in the beginning when I first started working out here. I didn’t come out here to get a job.
I brought my sister out here to get a job. I was already working. I cook too. I was like, “Let me see what it’s going to be like. The guy that hired her gave me the job and I came home. I was still working both jobs. I started seeing people coming in and make sure my restroom is immaculate because I take it like at home. My house is clean, my bathroom is going to be clean and people love coming in there with their kids. You have to be mindful that the kids are people too, when they come in and I treat them first. I talked to them and encouraged them too. By doing that, they leave notes, messages, and tips.
You have right here. You showed me. What are we looking at right here?Happiness is about mindset. If you don’t have it in your heart and spirit, happiness can’t exist. Click To Tweet
This one lady came in and she was saying thank you for the week because she came in from somewhere else. She was like, “I want to say thank you.” This one here, the bathroom was immaculate. She came in, she wrote a note and she was like, “Not only is your bathroom immaculate, but you and your attitude are inspiring, your happiness and enthusiasm made my day.” That was one of our passengers, then this lady said, “I came to see you this morning. I missed you singing, Valerie. Happy restroom, maybe next time.” She has a sad face.
These are written on paper towels from the bathroom.
I was like, “Oh my God.” This lady stopped in on B Concourse that I was telling you all about. “Valerie is an amazing part of your special airport. Thank you, Valerie. Katie.”
No one was telling you to do this. You shared before that your pay was low. Wasn’t it low for the bathroom attendant?
They were paying $3.13 an hour. My pay was based on tips.
That’s $3.13 an hour. If you made tips you’d do better. How do you do in tips?
I didn’t make less than $400 a day. Don’t tell me it was like $500, especially on the weekend. We had a tip jar, so they put it in the tip jar. Someone would put $100 in my pocket. There’s one lady, she put the money and I didn’t know what it was at the time. She put $100 in my back pocket and she said, “Make sure you don’t lose that.” She kept saying it. I wasn’t thinking about the money or whatever she did. I was like, “Okay.” When it calmed down, I went into my closet in the bathroom, I pull it up and it’s $100. This other lady had put $100 under the woods that were in the jar. The thing is it’s not about the money. It’s about making the people feel welcome, cared about, and making sure that they are not in that negative mode.
You said, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” What were the other things you do in the bathroom setting for kids?
I’d be singing, “Good morning to you. How do you do?” I’d be singing different kinds of songs, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.” The kids love that because they like sunshine. I said, “I bet your mom’s singing like that.” They’re like, “Not like that.”
Let’s go to the first time you did this. The first time you went into the bathroom, were you like, “I’m going to sing.” How did it happen? Was there any fear?
No, because I’m a people person. I love people. When I first went in, I wanted to make sure my bathroom was clean and then the people started coming. I was like, “Good morning, welcome to Valerie’s happy restroom. Don’t worry, be happy. Everybody gets a seat. No waiting, no line,” stuff like that. I started singing songs and they’d be smiling. I said, “Don’t worry, be happy in the happy restroom.”
Your leaders, your bosses, what did they start noticing? What happened? How did they recognize you?
People would call the company. They were like, “What is your company name?” I told them and they would email them. They will come and tell me, “They emailed what you were doing and that they appreciate your service.” Even with this company that I got now, I got many emails. They didn’t give them all to me but they tell me about some of them. A lot of people are emailing and the main office told them, “We love getting compliments instead of getting complaints.” They’d tell, “Go down and tell Valerie that she got an email from the customer.” I said, “That’s all well and good. That means I’m doing my job, not just for the company but for the people as well.”
How long were you in the bathroom?
I worked for them for two years then I got this job.
You’ve got this opportunity. You came in and you started working at a newsstand selling snacks and waters. You’re like, “I’m taking the fun here.”
No, I was working in the warehouse because when I went to apply for it, I was a replenisher. I did replenish around the stores. I take stuff, load up, and re-stocked the store.
You didn’t get as much opportunity to interact as you did now.
I did because I was going from east Concourse loading up stuff. I was singing and I was riding the little car singing, “You are my sunshine,” and blowing the horn.
People must have been like, “This person is crazy.”
They were more laughter than anything. They would like at peace and more laughter because you’re always going to have some negative people that don’t want to see other people happy. I don’t let that affect my spirit because that’s not what I do. I said, “You have a blessed day,” and keep moving. I don’t disrespect anybody. I’m not being mean to anyone. When people have a negative reaction, I said, “You have a blessed day,” and I keep moving. The ones that are embracing that, they’d be glad to see you coming because they enjoy what you’re doing. My thing is to make sure that people are happy. I have two charities at St. Jude’s and Shriners Hospital. Those are my charities. Whatever I get, I’ve donated to them. That’s what I was doing with my tip besides paying my bills. This is what I do and that’s not going to stop because this is a part of me. I want those kids to be happy and the parents do not have to pay any bills. If I can help do that, then I’ll do that.
You’re making this huge impact. Do you cost the company anything extra?
It’s making money for the company because of what I do in the store, more people come to the store. Some people come by and they say, “I don’t want to buy anything, but since she was singing, I’m going to buy this.” They come in to walk around and hear me singing. The lady said, “I didn’t want anything. I just wanted to hear you singing.”
This is a tough question for you. Imagine you run the company and you run all the different stores in the airport. You know the impact that you’re making. How would you get more people to embrace this and bringing the Happy Zone because you’re the only one singing I see at the airport?
If I had to come in and would have to change what some of them do, you have to put the customer and people first. It’s not about me, it’s about the people. I’m happy making other people happy. If you’ve got that concept in your mind, then you know to do everything you know to do to make them happy.
It’s like, “If you give fun, you have fun.” I’m sure every day you’re having fun. When you leave work, how do you feel?
I feel great because I know I’ve accomplished what I set out to do and then I say, “You can’t have fun if you don’t have fun.”
The purpose is key. A lot of people feel like they’re going to do a job. When you come in the morning, what do you feel like your job is?
For instance, a customer service counter that’s across from me. One of the customers came into my store and she said, “You need to work over there at the customer service desk.” I said, “You had that experience over here, but now you’ve got a new one right here. Don’t worry about that. That’s in the past. Focus on what makes you happy and don’t let them steal the joy that they didn’t give you.”
If you were to say what your job and purpose is, what is it?Positivity helps you stand out. Click To Tweet
My job is to be the best customer service. I know how to be. With that being said, this is what I do because the customer comes first. When I do that, I come to work and I’m like, “I’m looking forward to making somebody happy.” In my job, a lot of somebody is going to be happy because they come in and they look for the Happy Zone. I then come in and say, “I’m talking to you.” They’ll say, “You’re not singing.”
I know this will be easy. We’re going to break into a game. Truth and dare, which one do you want first? It doesn’t matter. We’re going to go dare. I want you to give some of your craziest, most fun songs that you would sing. You call out what’s happening in the store a lot. If you could show a little bit of singing now.
I’ll sing, “Good morning to you. How do you do?” If they’re paying us, “Chief, read the money bleeder. You better know what some meter reader. You got a card too. This is what you got to do. Let me get your receipt. You don’t have to wait for next week. There isn’t next week.”
You then start laughing. How did you develop a rap like that?
That’s a gift from God because I get home and I can’t even find my keys. I pray my day before I started anyway. I said, “Lord let me go in there and be the best I know how to be to the customers that I encounter on this day.” When they come in, I don’t have to think of that. When they’re coming in to buy, I go, “You’ve got the chip and the dip and the dip in the chip. It’s not the kind of chip and dip that you put on your lip, get the chip and dip that you pay with and that’s okay with it. What are you going to do? Have a Happy Zone too.” It just comes out.
You start laughing because you feel like it.
Because other people would be laughing too. That makes me happy to see them happy. You can’t get past that.
You won all the dare. That’s the best dare. From a true standpoint, people always have a challenge with days. They have a tough day. They wake up and things aren’t going right. There are things happening in the outside. From the challenges of other things that aren’t right, how do you deal with that and stay positive?
First of all, I don’t have any control over that and I pray about it constantly. The thing of it is prayer changes things. I’ve had people come to my store and this is true. They come in my store and they’re on their way to a funeral. It’s the spirit, the attitude, and the vibe that they’re getting. They’ll come in and say, “I’m on my way to a funeral, but you have made my day and you’ve made it a lot easier for me to go do what I need to do.” I said, “It’s nothing that I’m doing. I give all the glory to God anyway, but I’m glad I was here to help you because he sent you where you need to be at the tick of the time.”
It is the recognition every day in a sense, does that help you feel like you have a purpose in what you’re doing?
Not really because what it does is it lets me know that what I do affects a lot of people in a positive way. That’s all that matters to me. As long as it’s not negative, I feed off of that because I’m like, “I can keep doing this because I’m going to change somebody’s life from what it was or put them in a better mood than they were in when they came in here.” That makes all the difference in the world.
What have you seen from your coworkers since this has happened? You’ve become a star. Did their attitudes change?
Most of them are encouraging and they understand. This is the younger generation, but the older ones that have been here and you can see that. I feel like if they can’t do it, then they’re not into it. They have a little jealousy, envy, that thing. I don’t let that affect me because I let them know you can do anything you want to do. God has given you a gift. Use your gift. You don’t have to imitate or perpetrate somebody else. Use what God gave you because I’m sure what he gave you is as awesome as what he’s doing for me. I take what he gives me to use it to the positive advantage of helping somebody else.
Valerie, I’ve shared your story on stage speaking and everyone’s laughing and excited, but people will come back. As I said before, I don’t know if our people can’t do that or can do that. Do you have any other ideas or suggestions on how people can make people happy?
It’s an inside thing. They have to have the mindset to do that. If you don’t feel it in your heart and spirit, it’s not going to work. You can’t go around the perpetrate and pretend to be someone because it’s going to show sooner or later. If you have this with you all the time and it’s in your heart, mind and soul, you don’t have to worry about it. It’s like my coworkers when they say, “We got a visitor coming,” and they were talking about the big people that come. I said, “If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing when they’re not here, when they come, you don’t have to worry about running around like a chicken with your head cut off because you’re not in order like you should have been.”
When they tell me that and I said, “I’m going to do exactly what I was doing before you told me they would come in because I’m doing this when they come in.” It’s staying focused on what you’re doing. You don’t have to go overboard with what it is to prove something to somebody. They can see it. It’s like with me with the spirit of God in me, people come in and they say, “You know the Lord.” I said, “Yes,” because they can see that. That’s what it is. I don’t throw it on anybody. I don’t try to preach to no one because that’s not my job. My job is to let the love of God shines through so that they can see. I don’t have to do anything.
It goes down to a deep purpose. You know what you’re doing. You make it fun. I’m fascinated too, are there any other stories that stand out? You’ve been doing this now, singing every day, are there things that stand out where you go home and be like, “I can’t believe this has happened.”
It’s positive in there when the generation is kicking up when I’m there. I don’t know what they do when I’m not there. When some of the younger kids that they hired already, they’ll come in my store and I had a couple of them that I had to let them know in a positive, honest, promise way that, “We have customers here,” and they like to use the bad language. I said, “This is not the place for that. This is the Happy Zone and it’s going to stay that way. If you want to use those bad choice words, you have to go outside the store because I don’t want any of the customers hearing that because that’s a negative vibe.”
You took ownership of the whole store in a sense. You’re like, “This is the Happy Zone. You don’t mess with the Happy Zone.” Do you, Valerie?
They had one of the airline people. This was New Year’s Day. The airline lady came over to my store. They never come by. I knew in my spirit there was something up with that. She came over to my store to tell me, “One of the customers complained that you were blowing the horn.” It was New Year’s Day, mind you. In my spirit, I said no, “No customer told you that.” She was like, “Can you not blow the horn?” I said, “It’s New Year’s Day and I had to work. I’m going to blow this horn.” She was like, “Okay.” She went back to her store.
What do you mean, you blow the horn?
I had a horn, the New Year’s horn. I was playing music through it. When she left, some of the customers came in and I was like, “Does this horn bother you guys?” They were like, “No, keep blowing the horn.” I knew it wasn’t the customers. They told my boss. They were like, “We have to hear this every day, all day, but the customer has only come through here a couple of hours. Can you ask her not to sing?” My boss lady said, “Let me tell you something. These people are happy when they come here. I’m not getting ready to ask her to stop singing.” She told them to change the job positions, change the station. I was like, “Okay.” I was singing all the time, so all this time it was a trick of the enemy. Why would you not want to be happy?
What’s interesting too about that is that you had the horn. That’s an interesting thing to think about. Maybe they don’t want to sing. Maybe we get their little instrument or something to make noise. You give something to make it fun. There are a few things that you’ve said that’s been fascinating to me. You said, “My store.” Do you own the store?
It’s the Happy Zone when I’m in there.
Yes, but you own how you make people feel. The bathrooms, did you say, “My restroom?”
I said, “Welcome to Valerie’s happy restroom.”
You owned it and for all the business leaders, how can you give people the opportunity to say, “This is your spot. Own it how do you want to make people feel.”
They did a video. The company that I worked for before, the bathroom attendants never sing. They never smiled. They were showing them that video with the customer service class.
Have they asked you about talking to anybody about the customer or they just show the video?
They just show the video from that company I worked for before.Be mindful of how you talk to people because they might take your words the wrong way. Click To Tweet
Did they film you in the bathroom?
They filmed me in there. Everybody was interacting with the customers. That’s what made them say, “This is what you all need to do when the customers come in,” which if it’s going to make them happy, I’m all for it. When they hire new people for my company, they bring them down to my store and you have 15 to 20 people. They say, “This is Ms. Valerie.” They even call it the Happy Zone.
You’re a performer. If you ever think about that because you must know to an extent people are watching all the time, not just the person you’re serving. They’re watching them. How do you take that performance mindset? Because work is theater, James Gilmore, The Experience Economy. A lot of times he goes talk, it’s theater. You’re on stage.
I don’t look at it like that. I look at it as doing what I do because if it helps other people and me, it helps me because to make other people happy, that is my reward right there. I had a customer sitting in Whiskey River, he is sitting over there and I’m in the store and doing what I do. I know that people are watching, but not in the mindset to where I’m performing. I do what Valerie does. He came over with his daughter and they said, “We have been sitting over here watching you for about 2 hours. We could not believe all the people that were coming by. At first, they had a frown and then when they walked past your store, they were smiling and laughing.” They came over and gave me $40. I was like, “You didn’t have to do that.” They were like, “We want to do this.” That’s what they do. The benefit of that is I don’t expect that. I expect them to be happy and enjoy what I’m doing.
You’re not doing it for it, but it’s a complete byproduct. The first time I saw you, Valerie, I called Emily, my wife. I said, “You won’t believe what I happened to see.” I then called Jared, our president, I told him your story. I said, “This is what we’re trying to build with our baseball team. It’s this experience every single position.” My question to you is how you could teach someone to say, “You can build your own Happy Zone.” How would someone like we get all these restaurants and you’re going to say, “I want to build a Happy Zone.” What’s the first step?
A happy attitude. If you got a happy attitude, everything else falls into place. This is where it starts. If your attitude is healthy and happy, there’s not even much else to do with that. You roll with that happiness and say, “This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to make it fun.”
Can you teach happiness?
You can by letting people see you’re happy. When they see you’re happy and they look within themselves and say, “I could be happy or as happy or even happier.” It’s a choice that you got to make. We got choices and what I do on top of the choices, I do them like, “I can do this and this is what I want to do.” You have to want to do what you have to have an attitude to do it and you have to be happy about it to do it. A happy attitude would get you wherever the happiness you want.
Who’s inspired you? Where have you learned some of these? Where have you seen some of this?
I was always happy growing up. You get older, you do things and you move out. I had that happy spirit. My parents, my grandparents, they were nothing but love. Love creates happiness first and foremost.
How did they show you love?
It’s by telling me and giving me the knowledge that I need and disciplining me when I needed to be. It’s by telling me they love me on a regular. Not just saying it, but showing it. I’m doing this for your good kind of thing, but being a kid you’re like, “I believe that.” As I got older, everything they told me, I was like, “I see it now.” That’s why my nephews and nieces I tell them education is knowledge. Knowledge is power. Power is everything. I randomly ask them, “What is education?” and they’re running off. I’m saying you instill that in there and happiness comes with all that. You’ve got to make up your mind that this is what you want to do.
When did you start sharing this? You share wisdom like crazy. How did it come to you?
It comes periodically, but after I got saved though because you have to do what’s right in the sight of God. If I can’t do what’s right in God’s sight, then I can’t do what’s right anywhere else. I have to be on my Ps and Qs and even if I know I haven’t offended anybody, I still have pit daily because I don’t know if I said something to someone from a distance and it offended them. In the meantime, be careful of what you’re saying to people and how you treat people. You have to be mindful of the way you talk to people and how you talk to people. Some people take it the wrong way.
Have you ever turned around as someone came in with a bad mood?
Yeah, especially in that store. This one girl came and I saw her attitude was bad. I’m saying to myself at first, “You’re in the Happy Zone. What are you going to do, Valerie? This is not going to happen because I don’t want customers coming in and seeing her with her face all toe up and everything.” I kindly asked her, “Excuse me, let me talk to you for a minute.” This was her second day. I took her outside and I said, “I don’t know what is going on with you but if there’s anything that I can do to help you, I would be more than happy to do that. I’ve seen you smile. You have such a beautiful smile and I like to see that more. Whatever it is, you have to turn that around because we are in business here and we got customers that come in and they don’t want to see negativity. That looked that you had on your face, it’s negative. I would appreciate it if you want to work down here in this store being that it is a Happy Zone. All you have to do is change that frown and turn it upside down.”
When I told her that, she came back, I think it was two days later that I saw her. She was like, “Ms. Valerie, thank you for that conversation,” between her and me. There were people in there, but we were talking outside to each other. I said, “Anytime, anything I can do to help you, I will. While you’re at work, you’re happy with what you’re doing because you got a job. You’ve got a place to live. It’s stuff like that and let them know that the things that you have, be grateful for what you got. In the meantime, if these people see you with an attitude, you won’t have a job at all. What you need to do is go ahead and let whatever it is that’s flagging you, leave it on the back burner. Give it to God. He’ll take care of it for you. In the meantime, come in and enjoy what you do. If you don’t enjoy your job, you won’t do a good job at it anyway.”
It’s a job that not many people think like, “I’m going to love that. I was in a bathroom for a while. I was a bathroom attendant.” I was like, “You were a bathroom attendant. You’re working at the register.” Your definition is, “I’m not just a bathroom attendant. I’m not just working at the register.” You’re doing something much different, aren’t you?
I’m making it fun what I do. If you don’t have fun with what you’re doing, there’s no point in doing it anyway. I’m like, “If you can’t have fun at work, stay at home.” I tell people all the time, “Fun is not going to jump out and say, ‘Have some.’” You got to make your fun. I tell people and then I believe, don’t let life trials make you bitter. Let them make you better because we all are going to go through, but you don’t have to wallow in it. You got to do something different. Take another turn. Put your problems on the side and think about somebody else. Take you out of yourself and consider someone else. That’s why you get the knowledge of saying, “I can appreciate what I’m doing more because I’m mindful of somebody else.” You never know what people are going through because they come in and they’re looking mean faces. I say, “If you got to look at me with a mean face, don’t look at me.”
Don’t bring me down. Booker T. Washington said, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift others up.”
That’s the same thing. They’ve taken me out of myself and putting me somewhere for somebody else. I’m all right. I’m good.
Here’s a little more rapid-fire at the end. You are now the host of Business Done Differently. The crazy guy in the yellow tuxedo tries to make fun happen like you every day. You can ask one question to me, switching it up.
Before I ask the question, when you came into my store and you came in such a cool color, I’m like, “This is going to be fun.” I like it. You brighten up the store on top of the brightness that was always there. That made me feel good. I got plenty of light. But outside of that, because I read about some of the stuff that you do and I admire that because you told a little bit of your story and I said how did you get your business started? What I want to do is do me some inspirational shirts. I have some CDs that I’ve videoed in the store that I want to put on CDs and get them out because customers ask me all the time, “Do you got that on a CD.” I asked God for financial blessing. He already gave it to me. I just got to put it into works.
You have something that you can spread the wisdom.
Yes, and wake up songs like, “Good morning to you. It’s time to get up sleepy head, get up out of that bed. You got to raise your head.” The lady says she wanted one little quirk kid to get up in the morning.
You start by doing things a little different and then you shift to how you can make a difference. It’s like, “I’m going to come out and sing.” You didn’t know the difference you’re going to make through singing. You start making a difference. Now more people want to be a part of it and it spreads.
I prayed about it and I said, “Lord, whatever it is you want me to do, I’ll do to encourage other people.” That’s what came to mind because I was going to have like Valerie’s Happy Zone with the smiley face and then put inspirational encouragements on them.
What would be some things you’d put on the shirts?
I’ll put some of the scriptures and I say, “Don’t worry, be happy,” like I did with the rest of them. I said, “Don’t let life trials make you bitter. Let them make you better.” Things like that and I’ve got a lot of them written down. I had to write them down. I tell people, “Life is what you make it.” You have a choice. We all have choices. You make the right choice. You do the right thing.
If you were to tell someone something that can make them stand out, whether it’s business or life, you want to say, “This will help you stand out.” You’ve been standing out like crazy.
Positivity will help you stand out when you’re being positive about anything that you’re doing. The biggest thing that will make you stand out is the big smile you got on your face. People look at you and when they see you smile, it does something to their spirits.
It’s contagious, isn’t it?
It is and you got to smile back. People that don’t smile back, I’ll be like, “I say good morning. If you don’t say anything, that’s okay because I’ve done my part.”
What are some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s like what I have in those writings and emails that people are saying, “You got a jewel in Valerie.” They tell the company and whatever. I’m saying this is what God made me do. It amazed me. It made me be the person that I am so I could be beneficial to somebody else. That’s what it’s all about. Help us with one another is what we are. When you do that, it’s like taking me out of myself and putting it on somebody else and say, “If this is going to help you, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Have you seen anywhere else that’s given a great experience? Similar to singing and fun? Is there anywhere else that you’ve walked in and you’ve been like, “This made me feel good?” Where have you gone that’s brought the happiness?
Besides the church, there are a few people that I know. They’ve worked at some of the stores that I come in and they got this big smile on their face. I don’t say they’re smiling because I came in. They do that naturally. That makes a difference to not just me but everybody else. There are a lot of places in this airport and they did a write up about me in this airport. They put in a newsletter and a lot of people saw it. They were like, “I saw you on TV and I saw you in the newsletter.” It’s like they had jealousy about it. I don’t go around saying, “You saw me on TV.” I don’t do that because I don’t have to do that because that’s not what’s important.
What’s important is my number one customer and it’s going to stay that way. That’s all why I’m doing it. I got a job, I pay my bills and thinking when I come to work, I come to work to have fun and make somebody else’s life a little better and make them happy, then they work. That’s the purpose. I come in here and I’m like, “I’m going to work in the morning and God willing, he wakes me up, I’m going to work and I’m going to make somebody happy,” then he’s like, “You’re going to make a bunch of people happy.” When I leave here at the end of the day, I’m peaceful and in the joy that it went the way God planned it.
You say it starts with a mindset. It also starts with a smile. It sounds like the people you talk about past experience, “They smiled at me.”
Kill them with kindness. That’s what you do in a lot of that. There are a lot of the airline people that work here that have issues. Some of them have been here for 20 to 30 years. I think you’d be here 20 to 30 years, you got airport stamp on your forehead, so you don’t know how to smile. You don’t want to be happy. That’s something that they have to deal with. I see this because after many years being here, I’ve seen a lot of the airline people that work here that have not changed, not even a little bit. Some of them wouldn’t speak. They wouldn’t come past the store and speak. Now some of them come, “Good morning, Ms. Valerie. How are you doing?” They’ll be saying, “Happy Monday, happy Tuesday” because every day is a happy day. They’ll come in and say, “Happy Tuesday.” I’ll be like, “Thank you, Jesus, because you don’t get them to say happy Tuesday.”
What are some of the best questions that you’re asking people? If you’re asking anybody a question that can help them with anything, what’s a question you asked?
The young kids I deal with now. I said, “What are you going to do when you get out of school?” I encouraged them, but to ask older people that work here, I don’t ask them because they look like they don’t know themselves. After my experience in seeing the way I interact with people, wouldn’t you love to love people? Because you get back what you get. Smile at somebody. You never know, that might change their whole day. Instead, I said, “Don’t walk around and look at me and face of the people you don’t even know. I would prefer a smile rather than a frown any day.” That’s what I’ve told most people, “Smile to somebody.” It will make a difference. It goes a long way. Whatever is going on, leave your problem at the door when you come to work. If you want to pick it up on your way home, be my guest. In the meantime, you come in here to do a job and interact with the people that are traveling, which are paying the paycheck. Keep mindful that everybody wants to be treated with love anyway.
How do you want to be remembered?
The happy lady. I was an inspiration to people. I was there to change somebody’s life to say if you walk around being mean all day, I can say, “That person’s happy now.”
If you want to change someone’s life, it starts by changing their day. I think you’re doing that every single day. You make that happen.
Plan your day before you start the day. That’s the way it’s going to be. It’d be like you want it to be. That comes back to choices. We have choices all day long. Some people make the wrong choices, but you get an opportunity to make it correct. If you think about what you’re doing before you do it and it’s not that obvious that you won’t make that mistake or whatever it is that you’re doing, but we sometimes do.
What would you like to leave? Would you like to leave any parting advice? You’ve shared so much, Valerie, and you’re laughing already. Are there any final things you’d like us to leave with?
I want people to treat people with love, care, happiness, and joy. Once you do that, there wouldn’t be much of what’s going on in the world. All that negativity, you got to keep it. We got to have more love. My new year’s resolution, love more people than I did in 2019. I’m going to do that, and then the ones that I didn’t see. The ones that I saw, they already know I love them. Whatever God puts in front of me, I want to be able to make it a success and make sure that I’ve touched somebody’s life and they said, “I went down there to the Happy Zone and I’m not the same. My attitude has changed.” Work on it, that kind of thing.
You’re an inspiration to me and to many. Everybody needs a Happy Zone.
Everybody does. They can have one. Some of them are not ready for it.
Once they get into it, then they’re in.
As long as I’m down there and the days I’m there, I see the people that come through. I can see the change in a lot of people that still work down there. I’m always down there anyway. I have to walk through here. TSA at the front, when I come in the morning, they used to be serious and quiet. They’re doing their job but they’re doing it happily. That’s what I’ve noticed and I was like, “Oh my God.” They’d come in and they’d be like, “Good morning. How are you doing? You got to sing a song.”
Where can people see you? Where can they go see you at the airport?
I’m down there at E25. That’s where I work Monday to Friday.
You don’t slow down with your singing?
No, because I’ll be in it by myself. It pops in there because my mom and dad used to sing to me when I was a baby growing up. That music is in me. When I come up with these rhymes or whatever, they just pop in there and that makes them laugh, makes them happy. They’re overwhelmed.
Valerie, thank you so much. This is amazing.
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