How I Learned Graciousness From Mary Kay and a Lemon

03-28-2016 9:54 AM

Back by popular demand, Nancy Thomason shares memories from her first business trip with Mary Kay Ash.

I remember my first business trip with Mary Kay. As her executive protection specialist, I traveled everywhere with her. We were going to California for a Mary Kay Jamboree, which is similar to Mary Kay Inc.'s current Leadership Conference.

I had prepared for this trip for weeks, and I WAS PREPARED!

I had all the bases covered with:

  • Floor plans of the hotel and convention center
  • 3 different travel routes to the hotel, convention center and restaurants
  • a list of procedures for drivers as well as background checks on the drivers
  • a list of 24-hour pharmacies, trauma hospitals, doctors, dentists (primary and secondary doctors and dentists)

When we arrived at the hotel, we knew Mary Kay would only have one hour to unpack, change clothes, eat, touch up make up and leave for the convention center.

So I preordered the meal so it would be waiting in the room when we arrived.

Mary Kay and I sat down at the table to eat lunch. At this moment, I saw a lemon wrapped in a doily in a bowl next to my plate.

I hadn’t traveled much growing up. I had read about lemons though. Hmmm ... now I wasn't sure what do to this lemon. Should I use the lemon to clean my fingers before eating? Or was I supposed to use it to cleanse my palate between the club sandwich and apple pie?

I began to get a little nervous and concerned. Being a new employee, I just knew in my heart Mary Kay would never have anyone working closely with her who was not worldly and sophisticated. Surely, she would not work with anyone who did not know the finer points of lemon etiquette. So I thought this would probably be my first and final trip with Mary Kay Ash.

At this point, Mary Kay said she would like to say the blessing and asked that we hold hands.

Mary Kay began praying. I am sure it was a beautiful prayer but I did not hear a word. All I could see was that lemon. The longer Mary Kay prayed, that lemon seemed to grow bigger and bigger.

After the prayer, Mary Kay picked up her lemon and said: "Isn't it wonderful how they wrap the lemons in doilies to keep the seeds from going into our tea?"

Years later, Mary Kay told me that early in her career, her co-workers ordered whole crabs for the entire table at one of the dinners. Mary Kay said she had never eaten crab in the shell, so she didn't know how to eat it. She did not want to embarrass herself, so she excused herself from the table, saying she did not feel well and returned to the hotel.

Mary Kay was sensitive to others who might be in an awkward situation and always did her best to put people at ease in an uncomfortable situation. I experienced Mary Kay graciousness first hand on that first business trip with her!

Nancy Thomason currently serves as Executive Project Specialist and Board Member for The Mary Kay Foundation.℠ She just celebrated her 35th work anniversary!