How Do You Treat People? Every day you have a chance to make a difference in people’s lives. I’m not talking about getting your name in the paper, or being on TV. I’m talking about with ordinary folks in ordinary situations.
I like to use humor where possible, but I always gauge a situation before I say anything. I make a quick study of a person or group of people before I open my mouth.
I was in the post office not long ago. A crowd began to accumulate, and I was about the middle of it. There were two postal clerks, but one was only moving back and forth behind the counter and not helping customers. Why that was, I have no idea. The clerk who was serving customers was working as fast as he could.
I sensed everyone in line was getting on edge. I had allowed time in case of a delay, but I’m sure from the looks on others’ faces they had other places they needed to be.
I blurted out, “I want to know who called this business meeting?”
Everyone chuckled or laughed out loud. That broke the ice. Everyone loosened up, and before you knew it, the line had dissipated, and all were served. As I left the post office, one or two people still smiled at me.
Once in a very crowded elevator, I too looked around, and sensed the frustration of all the people packed into such a limited space. “I spoke out clearly, “I sure hope next time they call a business meeting, they have a bigger conference room.” You could feel the tension release, and what may have started off as a bad day for a number of people changed course, because of a few words.
I was in Chick-fil-A on Saturday to pick up our supper. I tried to arrive between the lunch crowd and the supper crowd. After doing this three or four times, I’ve decided there is no regular mealtime for chicken. People are there all the time. If it is not the busiest Chick-fil-A in the world, I don’t want to go the busiest. I’m not sure of the business hours, but people are bound to come in there, take home sacks of chicken, put them in the oven on warm, and get up at three in the morning to satisfy their craving for chicken.
There was probably a differing opinion about what was taking place. I called it uncontrolled chaos. I assume the employees called it controlled chaos. Service was quick though, and as I picked up my sack at the counter, the young, black fellow said, “Have a good day.” That might be required protocol, but it’s all in the way you say it. “I told him, “You do also.” There was a smile on his face. Considering the amount of business traffic in the store, he could have forgotten the protocol in such harried conditions.
As I started out the door, an older black lady was coming in, and I held the door open for her. You must remember I am of the age, and being in the South, many people assume we mistreated everybody. The lady smiled and thanked me. I told her she was quite welcome.
There’s a lady at the CVS drugstore we frequent whom my wife has known for ages. A black lady, probably early forties. She’s always courteous, as we are to her. If my wife is not with me, this lady always inquires about her.
Same of the cashiers and those who sack our groceries at Piggly Wiggly, or as we call it, Piggy. Always courteous, as we are to them. If my wife is not with me, they always ask about her.
These are simple acts of kindness, but they are uplifting. I might not be having the best of days, and perhaps my wife, but this has an impact on how we look at the rest of the day.
Just because I am kind most of the time should not be mistaken for weakness. That I am not. I’ve probably passed that on to our children. Our son is a lawyer, and nobody messes with him anyway. Our daughter is probably tougher than my son and I combined. If she has been wronged, she will take her case to the CEO of a company, and I’m not talking about small companies. I almost feel sorry for the person on the other end, because she always makes such a compelling case with meticulous details. There is nothing to argue about.
There have been some realignments in the office of one or our doctors. I called over recently to get a change in medication for my wife. Both of us have gone to that medical practice for years. When you call for medical reasons, you get the nurse that day who is answering the phone. Normally nurses are the most compassionate people on earth, but on this day I drew some smart-ass. She was rude, quite rude. In the initial conversation, I gave her the benefit of the doubt, but my attitude changed quickly. I became rude, quite rude. When I called for a doctor’s appointment the next day, and talked to the scheduling person, in addition to the nurses’ rudeness the day before, I found she had either lied, or not bothered to check the facts.
I didn’t stop there. When my wife and I went to our doctor, I detailed to his nurse what had happened, and told her in all the many, many years we had been coming there, this had never, ever happened to me.
When I go in the bank, normally the same two cashiers wait on me, occasionally a third. I always try to personalize my comments, but not step over the line. That is a thin line to walk, but certainly worth the effort. On a couple of occasions, the bank manager has gone out of his way to do things for my wife and me. He’s normally on the phone, but I wave at him through his door, so that he will know my wife and I do not forget kind gestures.
Once when I was on first business trip to a small town in Virginia, I got the business owner to drop me off about a block from her business. She knew my sense of humor.
I had talked to many of the office ladies on the phone previously, but I had never met them. I came up to the front door, retraced about four or five steps, and stood there looking around like I was studying the location. This caught the attention of the lady at the reception desk. I think she went back to the business owner’s office, and remarked that someone was out front looking around. The business owner, of course knowing me, told her she had heard a Civil War buff was in town, and I was probably that person. The receptionist was at her desk when I entered the office. Shall I say, she stared at me in an unconventional way?
Then I began my spiel. “Yes, it certainly is. Right out there on that sidewalk is where Robert E. Lee made that speech.” I was looking out the front door, then turned to the receptionist, and asked her, “Surely you’ve either heard or read about that speech.” She couldn’t recall either.
The owner came to the front, and introduced me to the receptionist. We all got a good laugh out of it. I think every time I called the office after that, and the receptionist answered the phone, there was never once she failed to mention that, and we both laughed.
One of our dogs, Brownie, we found on the street over from us. Someone must have put her out and left her. We had some difficulty catching her, but after about two minutes in our house, and some petting and food and water, she declared herself at home. She always loved my wife, but was always very cautious of me. I thought whatever family she was with before, the man must have mistreated her. I spent years trying to show her I cared about her, but she wasn’t totally accepting, until one day. We were sitting at the table, eating lunch. My wife had made me a Vienna Sausage sandwich. I had given Brownie a bite or two of Vienna Sausage.
The front door bell rang. I had asked someone to stop by and give me a price on cutting a tree down. My wife went to the back of the house for something. After I concluded my conversation, I went back in the house, and Brownie, a Dachshund-like dog, had somehow pulled my almost whole sandwich on the floor, and was eating it. She knew I would be furious. Instead I looked at her, and told her, “Well, go ahead and eat it. She gobbled it down. I think Brownie and I became better friends.
Try making a difference in people’s and, uh, dog’s lives. Nothing extraordinary. Just quite simple. You’ll be amazed at the results.