Over my very short career, I have been fortunate to work in quite a number of industries. Lately someone asked which of these industries was most personality defining for me. I thought this was an odd question and so I thought to take a moment and mull over it. I wanted to give what I thought was a good answer. The good answer was obviously the health sector, this answer was going to make me seem deep. However, that was not the correct answer. So I decided to go to them with my truth. The truth that I believed was not good enough and was not going to make me appear like a modern day mother Teresa. My answer was that my best time was when I was working in the hospitality industry. Allow me to explain.
For two years I worked in the service industry. My job ranged from serving guests, facilitating team building activities, handing out flyers to people in traffic and standing in supermarkets to speak with people about various products. Yes, I was that annoying girl in the supermarket that you don’t give a few minutes of your day to. Before this experience, I was just another person rushing through the supermarket, too busy to give two minutes of my time to that girl who had been standing there all day. I was the girl who never looked at service people and responded to them with a groan or a nod.
On my first day at the supermarket, I was placed in the toiletries section to push sales of some toilet cleaner. I was so excited and determined to do an incredible job. The whole day I smiled so much I could swear my mouth hurt. Two hours into it, I had a huge lump in my throat. Most people did not even look at me, they just ignored me and went on to pick their favorite brand. Then there were those tiny specs of yellow, those who smiled warmly, looked me in the eye and rejected my offer kindly. It did not matter that they did not take me up on my offer, just the fact that they acknowledged me as a fellow human being made my heart fill with joy. Then there was the time when I served guests and they looked at my tag and called me by my name instead of whistling to get my attention. In each of these very different clients, I saw myself. I felt what the people who serve me feel.
What is kindness? Kindness is definitely not about packing your whole wardrobe and donating it to a children’s home while your househelp’s children go to school in tatters. Kindness is also not about being the manager of a charity organization while you don’t even know your gardener’s name. I truly believe that people underestimate what a simple smile can do for someone. Whenever I go to the supermarket, I feel so great when the service people great me and ask me how my day was. Previously, I would answer absent mindedly. However, I recently got into the habit of asking them something very specific about themselves. You should see the look on their faces. Their faces light up and they tell me such interesting things. I think that in a world that is so lonely and cold, we struggle so much to alienate each other. We fight so hard to be alone yet complain about the lack of connection we experience. We build all these walls based on tribe, status, jobs and even race. We then hide behind these walls and wait for people to seek us out. What we don’t even realize, is that people are hiding behind their own walls.
So today, smile at your waitress even if you cannot afford to tip her. Ask that guy who cleans your office what he does in his free time. Thank the conductor when you alight at the bus stop. Look the supermarket attendant in the eye when they speak with you. Build a window and let the light get in behind that wall you have built. Click HERE to read more articles by Angela.