From the time I got my first job right out of college, I have worked in two different service industries. This has proved to not always be the best choice for someone who is highly sensitive and empathetic.
I enjoy helping and serving others. I don’t always enjoy the reaction or receptiveness of those who I am trying to serve. Turns out, people are a crapshoot.
Everywhere we go, every person we encounter, we have a choice: we can either make their day or ruin it entirely.
Right now, I’m spending a solid amount of time volunteering for several political campaigns. Because of a worldwide pandemic, it means I can’t go knocking on someone’s door to remind them to mail back their ballot.
I had two experiences that were completely different. Each could have defined my day. I had as much of a choice in the effect that those people would have on me as they did their effect on me.
The first person I called angrily cut me off letting me know he would not be voting for Joe Biden because he “will not vote for a damn pedophile.” He hung up on me as I stammered to find a reaction.
I sat staring at my computer. For a moment, I thought about just shutting it down and forgetting the whole thing. Who wants to do this? Why are people so damn nasty? I honestly didn’t think I had it in me. I could make something up and tell the campaign organizer I had internet issues.
I kept going anyway.
After a while, I called a man named John. John answered the phone like this: “Hello? Speak on it!”
I chuckled and went into my spiel. After about ten seconds he cut me off with a laugh. “You guys have called and texted me five times in the last week and I’ll tell you what I told the last guy. YES! You have my vote! I will be voting blue like I have since I was 18!”
Here’s the thing: He wasn’t mad. He was laughing. So, I laughed.
His energy was adorable. He told me he was 70 years old and never missed an election so his word is good that he mailed his ballot. He’s got this whole process down.
We chatted for a few minutes because we’re both stuck inside and what the hell else were we going to do? He was an absolute delight. It was ten minutes before the end of my shift and I shut down my phone bank. John was the high point on which I wanted to end my day.
It was that simple. He was the high point. He had no idea.
All we need to do to be the high point of someone’s day is to be kind. That’s it. We are interacting with another human being. We may have no idea what is happening in their life but everyone wants and needs kindness.
Everyone knows how to be kind. Sometimes, though, we just forget. We’re in a hurry. We’re mad at something that happened three hours before that is unrelated to what we’re doing now and who we’re talking to. We’re tired.
I had a car loan that required I go into an actual bank to make my payment. If there is anything that gives you a reminder to be nice to other people, it’s watching complete strangers act like assholes.
Most people we encounter are just the messenger. They don’t make the policy. It wasn't something that they dreamt up on their way into work while listening to an old Aerosmith song on the radio in their Toyota Corolla.
I watched person after person walk up the window to transact their business without doing any bit of preparation in advance. It’s a simple fact that if you are asking a bank to give you money, they will ask to prove who you are. This should surprise no one.
It was getting to be time for the bank to close when I realized that I would be the teller’s last customer of her week. I had a golden opportunity.
If you have a chance to be the high point or low point of someone’s day and you don’t choose that path of goodness, there is something severely wrong with you and you need to reevaluate your existence.
I walked up and smiled at the teller. I told her I needed to make my car payment and handed her the written out check with the account number on it and my ID. She just looked at me.
“People are rarely ready!” she said to me. I told her I noticed as I stood in line. I filled everything out while I waited. She said it made her day.
When I left, I felt good. She’s going to go home with that interaction in her mind as a reminder of her day.
We should ever underestimate our ability to influence people’s moods. I can’t tell you how many times I have been on the verge of throwing in the towel at work, frustrated by how people can be mean for what seems like sport.
Then, someone comes along and exudes kindness and humanity. They have joy to give in spades. It’s like the look at you and silently say, “My energy is yours, sister. Take what you need. I have more than enough.”
Those people are gold.
Look for the opportunity to bring kindness to someone. Dig deep if you have to. We’re all humans. By now, we should be good at it. Small things matter. When we encounter a fellow human being, we’re just one small thing. Our impact, however, is immense.