Saturday, April 2, 2011

In This Together

If you have been following my blog from the beginning, you should know by now that I value manners and politeness over any other character trait. I judge a person by whether or not they say please or thank you. I think a sincere smile goes a long way. I think that a pleasant attitude or good morals should not be an anomaly, but something that we should all be able to count on. Simple acts of kindness can change the world.

Which is why I want to tell you this little story, and hopefully it will inspire you to make a few changes in your life.

I go grocery shopping every single week, sometimes making two trips because I tend to underestimate the amount of fruit I can go through in a few days. There are two different checkout options at the grocery store on post. You can either go to the regular checkout line where you have to tip the baggers because they work for tips and do not have a salary, or you can do a computerized self checkout. 

Because I really am more than capable of bagging my own groceries and don't necessarily want to pay someone to do it for me, I often go for the second route. But the self checkout machines are full of glitches and extremely temperamental. You have to do each transaction just right or else the program freezes and flashes an embarrassing light, signaling for help. 

The employee who is typically working there while I shop is one of the most pleasant people I have ever encountered in my twenty-two years of life. He never fails to ask me how I am with a dazzling smile, and always answers with, "I am well" when I reciprocate. He has helped me out countless times when I happened to run into issues with the complicated self checkout system, and his cheerful attitude always makes the situation less frustrating. 

Yesterday, I finally decided to introduce myself. I shook his hand, and this this is the conversation that took place:

Me: Hi. I just wanted to introduce myself because I always see you here. My name is Min. 
Robert: My name is Robert. Wow, you don't know how much this means to me. You've just made my day. No, you've made my week! You know, I can always count on certain customers to come through and be smiling and nice, and you are one of them.
Me: Oh, well thank you. You're always so pleasant every single time. 
Robert: I have a great life so it's easy. I get some people who come in and they have trouble with the machines or whatever is going on with their lives, and so they take it out on me. But I don't mind it because I'm being paid to help them. It doesn't bother me. 
Me: I used to be a waitress so I know exactly what you mean.
Robert: You know, my coworkers give me a lot of grief over my personality. They don't like that I'm so pleasant because then others expect them to be the same way. 
Me: That's really too bad because I wish everyone could act the same way you do. You make this whole process so much easier.
Robert: One time this lady came next to me and asked me if I was a Christian. Being Christian has a lot to do with it.

[Robert gets pulled away by another customer to help him and he excuses himself. I finish up my purchase.]

Me: Thanks, Robert. Have a good day.
Robert: Thank you. You have a wonderful weekend. [We shake hands again]

Source: farm4.static.flickr.com via Min on Pinterest



Now, are you ready for my analysis of this conversation? It does have a little to do with religion, and it's hard to talk about religion without offending anyone so I hope that isn't the case here.

  • I wonder how much a handshake means to somebody who holds an occupation that doesn't necessarily deal with many introductions. I've spoken to Robert at least seven times before I finally decided to introduce myself, and I'm not sure why I waited so long. I think I decided to do so yesterday because I saw a definite change in the way he asked me how I was doing and he showed  a sign that he actually recognized me. 
  • When Robert first told me that I had made his week, I was really happy to have made a difference in his life. But then I felt sad because it is disconcerting to think that there was nothing else during the week that topped my simple act. 
  • And, finally, I really wanted to tell him that I am not a Christian, but I felt that I would break his heart a little if I had told him this. Or maybe it would just surprise him like it has others. I'm not quite sure how he would have reacted. No, I am not a Christian, but I still believe in being kind to others. I believe in being faithful to my husband, family and friends. I don't lie, cheat, or steal. I don't go to church or pray, nor do I feel like I'm missing anything in my life. I've attended services and other church events numerous times, and it just isn't for me. I've been told before that if I don't believe in God that I would ultimately end up in Hell. This makes me angry because, quite honestly, I think that I am a better "Christian" than actual Christians. Heavy words to say, I know. My Christian friends have told me that my being so "good" puzzles them. This makes me sad, too. Because, ultimately, I believe that being good and being kind should not have to do with whether or not you are Christian, but because it is the right thing to do.
Is there anyone in your life that you should introduce yourself to? Could you be doing more in trying to make someone else's day a little brighter? 

3 comments:

Rebecca said...

:) i love this! and couldn't agree more. working @ panera has taught me so much about kindness and how far it goes

Rachel C said...

I just want you to know that you're not alone... I have seen tons of people who are "Christians" on Sunday while they're at church, yet forget to "be good" the rest of the week.
These experiences partially influenced me to not associate myself with any particular religion (with other personal reasons). Even though I am not "part" of a religion, I definitely try to be kind and polite to everyone I come in contact - this should be the normal way people interact with one another, not just because they are Christian.
Thank you for bringing this point of view to your blog, it is extremely refreshing!

Min said...

@Rebecca: It's so sad that good customers are rare compared to the amount of bad ones. I always write "thank you" when I sign my receipts for credit card payments.

@Rachel: Thank you for your honesty and agreeing with my perspective of things. Your well-written comment really meant a lot to me.