Since I was a little girl, Mama has always preached kindness.
She believes it costs nothing to be kind and sometimes, those gestures – no matter how small – can go a long way.
Even though it has been a part of my life’s mission to do the complete opposite of what Mama tells me to do, I have heeded her advice.
Respect for everyone, regardless of their title or position was another one of Mama’s sermons when I was younger.
“Treat everyone with respect,” she would direct me. “Think about how you would feel if that were you. Or me. Or someone else you love. Even if you don’t mind them.”
As much as I hate to admit Mama is ever right, her words have rung true more times than I can count.
It helped me get one of my favorite jobs years ago after I had just moved here.
I had faxed my resume the night before but was worried it didn’t go through. Lots of things can happen with a fax – the machine could have been out of paper, it may have been lodged between spam faxes about cruise deals or it may have inadvertently been tossed. And I wanted this job.
I went in search of the place, hoping to talk to whoever was hiring.
I was greeted by a young woman sitting at the desk and I smiled, hoping I had found an ally.
I had, thankfully; but little did I know the woman acting as receptionist was the wife of the managing partner of the company.
“And it didn’t matter,” Mama said when I told her. “You would have treated her the same regardless.”
True, I would have; but, I have also sat in that chair and similar positions enough times to know some people think they can talk to you and treat you any way they want if they feel like you are the low girl on the totem pole.
I think they forget those positions are the gatekeepers who determine who gets through to the people they want to talk to. Rudeness doesn’t open the gate; kindness and respect do.
But it’s a shame that people treat someone poorly, just because they think they can.
Over the weekend, we went to one of our favorite places for lunch. I had called in the order but told them I knew we would probably add chips and drinks once we got there.
Since it is one of our usual places, I quickly realized the girl standing behind the counter was new.
It was a weird and confusing order to begin with because, well, we’re weird and confusing people. There were vegetarian sandwiches without the usual condiments and salad plates and pickles. All kinds of food craziness.
First, we had to add the drinks.
And then, I had promised Cole cake. There was a choice between carrot and some kind of heavenly lemon pound cake. Cole went with the lemon but was eyeing the cookies, too.
Then, Cole swapped out his usual chips for another brand after the cashier had rung it up, so she was trying to void that off because they were a different price.
I don’t think she had had to ring up a slightly crazed woman and her pre-teen son who had not eaten all day yet.
Somehow, the total was $119.99.
She let out a soft groan. She hit buttons on the register to no avail. Someone came over to look at it and told her the only way to get rid of it was to void the whole thing and re-ring it.
“I am so sorry,” she began. “I’ve got to ring everything up again.”
“That’s OK,” I said. I felt like it my fault, like in our low-blood sugar and hangry state, we had somehow caused the snafu. I looked over my shoulder at the people behind me and offered my apologies. It really did feel like it was my fault – and the girl was brand spanking new. They should have warned her about us.
When she finished and gave me the total, she laughed, “That’s a lot better than $119, isn’t it?”
I laughed as well and told her my son could probably eat that much in one sitting, so I hadn’t been really shocked.
As we settled into a booth to eat, the lady who had been behind us in line walked by and said, “The girl at the register is just new and she’s learning. It’s only her second day. But she did good, didn’t she?”
“She did. I figured she was new and everyone deserves a learning curve.”
The lady smiled. “I agree. And thank you for being so kind about it. A lot of people would have been rude or upset.”
“Oh, gosh, no. I’ve been there and I didn’t handle myself as calmly as she did!”
The lady smiled again. “Well, I just wanted to thank you… she’s my daughter, and I appreciate the fact you were kind to her.”
I didn’t know the cashier’s mother was behind me. I know if that were my child and someone was rude to them, especially when they were learning, I would be heartbroken and probably a more than a little bit angry. That interaction could have gone a totally different way, just because of attitude.
Or my raising.
We never know who is behind us, watching, observing and seeing how we treat others.
Kindness, in all things and no matter how small a gesture it may seem, matters.