I’m sitting in the drive through, in a long line in 90 degree weather in a car with out air conditioning. The lady in front of me has taken up two lanes and has stopped to chat with a friend that came out of the restaurant. The cars ahead move on. I can’t go around her. I am running late for an appointment. I have a small quick order, just needed a small snack and some lemonade for the kiddos since we would be in the car for a while and I forgot to grab some water bottles. When I finally get to order, they misheard me and I had to correct my order. At the window they said the food would take a moment, and asked me to pull ahead a bit and they would bring it out. I am now running very late.
Now you may be reading this and getting a knot in your stomach empathizing and imagining what this was like. How would you respond? Would you get upset?
Here’s the thing…I didn’t.
The lady in front of me did glance my way, and I smiled at her. A big knowing smile. Perhaps she had not seen this friend in a while. She smiled back, and from that point on I could tell she was doing the best she could to say what she needed and be on her way. She didn’t feel rushed, and perhaps her day was a bit better because of meeting her friend.
I went out of my way to tell the person taking my order that it was quite all right, and thanked them for double checking it was correct. I didn’t just pay and go with the customary “have a nice day” and “thank you” exchange. I had to wait a moment on the cars in front of me, so I chatted with her a bit, and told her it must be hard to hear through the order speakers. She said it was very hard, every little sound is amplified. She gave a quick laugh as we talked and her shoulders noticeably relaxed. I had taken a moment to see it from her perspective. When the next person told me my food was not ready and asked me to pull over, she was smiling exceptionally big, and was very polite. I told her no worries and thanked her. And when the gentleman came out with our food, he too was extremely polite. So much so I noticed it, and knew it was a little over done.
“I am so very sorry about this. Thank you for waiting.” …hands me the bag with a smile, and clasps his hands in a remorseful way… “Please check that your order is correct. I will wait here to make sure.” …He waits, all is okay. “Wonderful. Again I am so sorry you had to wait. Thank you and have a wonderful day!”
You see…all these people had access to windows and headsets. They all could see the situation, and my reaction. And each person was kinder and happier by degrees with each encounter.
Kindness begets kindness you see.
You could say that these employees were trained by their management to be all smiles and polite. Since this establishment is close to our house, I can tell you from experience it was not a normal encounter. But even if it was the result of training, it still proves my point.
I don’t write this post to pat myself on the back. In fact there a lot of days I really miss the mark on this and completely stress out. But those days are farther between as I feed this practice. Like going to bed earlier, or cutting out sugar from your diet. It takes time, and it takes purpose. Kindness is a learned trait.
I called the person I was suppose to meet after this encounter made me late. Turns out she was running late also. Because I had taken a moment to call, to apologize and to laugh at our predicament, she was less stressed now too.
A little goes such a long way. Kindness is exponential.