People tell me I am nice. They tell me I am kind. I don’t know about that. But I will tell you that in my day to day I try hard to “see” people and let them know they are seen.
It’s important I think for people to know that we see them. The cashier at the grocery store. The clerk at the pharmacy. The mall cop. The postal worker. The Salvation Army bell ringer. Santa’s elf at the mall moving the line along to see Santa. Etc, etc, and so on.
Patience is key. If you see they are working hard–perhaps with admirable calm or frantic overwhelm–getting angry or taking your frustration out on them will not help your cause. I try to be their break, their one appreciative person, the one who sees how hard they are trying and understands their stress, who sees they are thinking, “Please don’t yell at me. I’m doing the best that I can.” I’ve been there, and I haven’t forgotten. I worked gift wrap during Christmas one year, and let me tell you…people are downright mean about their gift wrapping. One woman told me she didn’t know I’d just be a person; she thought I would be a trained wrapper. It was my job, and I was doing the best I could with the limited training I had received. Most people were fine, more didn’t even see me, but her I remember 40 years after the fact.
I love the holidays, and it is one of the few times of the year where I do a lot of shopping. I get impatient with long lines, feeling like I am wasting my life while my feet and arms ache, and we are inching along. When I finally get the to the front I try to calm myself with a deep breath and share with the cashier instead of complaining at him or her. “Wow you guys are really busy. Bet the boss looks forward to this time of year.” or “Boy I’m tired from standing in line, so you must be exhausted. Do you get a break soon?” or the ever popular, “How are you so nice when there are so many people in line?”
I’m no saint. But we’re all people, and most of us are doing our best. I’d rather be the person they remember as “at least one was nice” instead of “one of them really took me down.” Like the lady who yelled at me about gift wrap.