When I was studying abroad during my college years, I visited the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Throughout the museum, older Russian women, "babushkas", stood at attention in many of the galleries to answer questions or to simply smile and nod. I remember walking by a display of furniture from the 18th century, distracted by my guidebook. When suddenly a touch on my shoulder brought my attention to the babushka standing nearby. "Mozart", she said with a heavy Russian accent. She pointed to the ornate piano standing in the corner. She repeated the word, "Mozart", while her fingers did a version of "air piano".
After more than 15 years, I still remember the look in her eyes that conveyed joy, pride and human connection far more articulately than any words in any language could do. She invited me, gently, to appreciate what was right in front of my eyes, but was unable to see.
Why does this moment stand out to me when thousands of other "transactions" between human beings are infinitely forgettable?
Hospitality is an art. It is the ability to intuitively understand and anticipate the needs of another person, then acting to fulfill those needs or desires. Practitioners of this art, like my babushka in Russia, are delighted to give a gift, without thought or expectation of return.
We think of the "hospitality industry" as synonymous with restaurants and hotels. Adam Platt wrote an article published in MPLS.St. Paul Magazine in 2010 where he discusses the "Hospitality Gap" in the hospitality industry. He writes, "If you patronize a place more than two or three times and don't sense a connection, it's not there...assuming you've ever experienced it and, therefore, can recognize it."
Whether we're experiencing art at a museum, enjoying a hamburger or applying for a home loan, shouldn't we feel this sense of connection?
When was the last time you felt the power of a human connection? When has someone looked out for your best interests, helping you to see what you might have been missing?
Affinity Plus is founded on the human connection. One example is our pro-active response to helping State of Minnesota employees during the state government shut down. We communicated with the worker's unions prior to the actual shut down, established hotline support, and provided our already empowered employees with additional tools to individualize to each member and their families. (see KSTP's news coverage of Affinity Plus' efforts here: Credit unions Offer Help to State Workers.)
Anticipating the needs of one member or 10,000 is part of what demonstrates that hospitality is not dead at Affinity Plus, it's just hard to find everywhere else.