I recently took a trip to a place with a person to make a purchase, the person I was making this trip with is someone who is a successful Ivy League grad, a person of means and power and a person who generally I find pretty pleasant to be around. Except that on the day we went to big box hell to make a purchase I saw another side of this person, it was impatient and frankly rude. See, the clerk at the big box store was doing his job being friendly with the folks ahead of us and apparently telling them about some promotion that the Big Box Extravaganza had going on. Well the folks ahead of us in line seemed interested in this promotion which meant that the line was not moving as fast as it could have, resulting a long wait in line.
Now my shopping companion found the fact that this Big Box clerk would have the audacity to hold up the line doing his job unreasonable, so my companion went to the service stand and told the managerial person that the line was being held up. So the manager comes over and tells Big Box Clerk he needs to wrap it up…in the end we made it out the store with our purchase and went about our business.
However that incident bugged the shit out of me because my shopping mate was in no rush, I knew his schedule and knew he had no pressing plans for that day. Yet he just could not stand to wait…now I will admit I am not a patient person, but I have worked my share of shit ass jobs as an adult with a kid to take care of and always feel a strong sense of compassion for anyone over a certain age working at certain jobs. Our clerk that particular day at Big Box Hell was no younger than 35 and I think I am being generous. He was old enough that such a job was probably not his first choice in life but you do what you have to do. Frankly as someone who spent time in sales many years ago, I thought he had a great spiel and lovely attitude and suspect the reason he was trying so hard was that an incentive of some sort was probably being offered to the clerks if he sold enough of these specials…and lets face it if you are working at Big Box Extravaganza you probably need all the extra bucks you can get, so who am I to get in the way?
Anyway I walked away that day with a reminder that too many times we don’t see people, we simply do not see people who we perceive as different from us. Do you have a favorite place you stop to pick up a coffee, donut, newspaper? You know, the place you go to most days. If so do you actually speak to the folks who work there? Do you feel they are your equals? Or are they the wallpaper to your life, the little people who keep things going, but basically just background noise. In other words if they were suddenly gone and replaced by another person would you care? Hell, would you even notice?
I am reminded that even with those seemingly little people in our lives we have the power to touch lives in what may appear to be small insignificant exchanges yet are so much deeper than that. You never know how much your daily act of kindness and compassion may mean to another person. I learned this lesson when my Mother died, a couple of days before the memorial service I had to take my Dad’s suit to the dry cleaners. I went in and the owner recognized me since my Mom had introduced us not long after she and my dad and had moved into their dream place.
So I go in and the fella says aren’t you M’s daughter? I say yes and he proceeds to ask how is your Mama, I have not seen her in a while. So I explain that she has passed away and I need to get my Dad’s suit cleaned and back ASAP. I was expecting a simple exchange after all this was the dry cleaners, how well could my Mom have known the dry cleaners? Well I should have known that my Mom as always made it a point to impact every one she encountered, she was blessed with extreme physical beauty but more than her physical beauty which turned heads up until her death, she had a generous and giving personality. In my Mom’s life everyone was treated well and she was not a respecter of positions, rank or any of that bullshit. My mom would stop and talk with a homeless person as easily as she could talk with the CEO of a major corporation. So it would make sense that even a boring event like taking clothes to the cleaners would be an encounter where my Mom would leave an impact.
I was not ready for what happened, the owner of the dry cleaners after realizing that I was quite serious and that my Mom had indeed passed away, started to cry and then hugged me. This man who my Mom saw at best 15-20 mins a week was clearly very touched and it was clear to me even then in my grief that she touched so many lives because she saw everyone. That incident is one of many after my Mom’s passing that has stayed with me not just because it involved my Mom, but because it’s a reminder if the type of life I strive to lead..one where everyone is seen and valued.
There are too many times we talk about the little people and even in our quest to help them by ways of activism or what have you, we simply miss the mark. Instead while I am blessed to have professional work that indeed impacts lives, the greatest impact I feel is just being a kind and decent person. I doubt I will ever fill my Mom’s shoes since my natural nature is not all that friendly but I will say in the last 7 years ever since I had a conversation with my Mom about a year before her passing. I have actively worked to see all and be a nicer person.
So dear reader, do you see everyone? Or do you only see the people in your world?