By Paresh Shah
The day after the election, in November of 2016, my team and I were on our way to a client in Philadelphia and took the Amtrak up the coast from Washington D.C. Tension and emotions were high all the way-- from Union Station in DC, on the train, and arriving at Philadelphia 30th Street Station.
The world was disoriented. In the silence and in the words, you could feel a mix of the tension: the celebration, the shock, the anger, the deep division.
Between the weave of emotions, and the packed hustle and bustle of a pre-pandemic East Coast commuter hour, we met one truly remarkable person. As we got off the train with 8 boxes of books for our client event, we asked a Red Cap, Tony Natalini, to help us cart our books upstairs where we could meet our Lyft driver.
In those few minutes -- from the train, in the elevator, and as we waited for our car upstairs, we watched Tony exemplify being what we call a Lifter Leader – a positive, purposeful, compassionate, action-taker that lifts those around him. Tony brightened the day of person after person on a Wednesday morning that was anything but normal. As customers asked him what track to go to, where to exchange their tickets, where the Starbucks was, Tony beamed to them an assurance that all will be well and a bright smile, on purpose.
For a few precious minutes, we watched Tony, and his associate Patty, stand like sentinels for a deeply divided Nation holding a compassionate, listening space as a blanket across the entire 30th Street Station.
Like advanced players in a real-life video game, where more and more challengers pile onto the field, Tony and Patty masterfully locked on one target after another. There was an entire group of elderly people for whom they cleared the way. There was that lonely traveler, clearly holding in tears, that Tony looked in the eye with recognition. There were people steaming inside and somehow, Tony and Patty knew how to relieve the pressure. These are the things that made the difference. Like magic, they intuitively knew who needed some spotting, some extra reassurance, some compassionate power of listening, a smile, or just a nod.
Tony, like a superhero, exemplified what one person can do to lift hundreds of others – his customers, his co-workers, his Philly community, even the entire East Coast Amtrak line. The actions Lifters take ripple beyond those they interact with directly.
Tony showed us a way to stay positive in moments of deep turmoil, division or overwhelm. A year later, I was passing through 30th Street Station again and tracked him down. I wanted to learn his perspective on how he uplifts people day in and day out, even on the most difficult days. I found him and we had some fun together.
Tony shared the bottom line, “I won’t let anyone steal my joy”.
Tony employs mindfulness techniques and applies them in the waking, working hours of his day, pouring the energy he accesses into lifting those around him (and he lifts heavy suitcases and boxes too!).
To all the people like Tony and Patty and on behalf of all those who you lift every day, whether they know it or not, thank you for being a Lifter Leader.
Here is a bit of our exchange when I caught up with him. If you want to be a Lifter, lift like Tony. #LiftLikeTony