As I held a door open for a lady, she whizzed by as if the door were automatic, paying no mind to the fact that I was just another customer like her. As a knee jerk response, I felt the need to curse her rudeness and edged on sarcastically shouting “you’re welcome!” at her back, but what good would that do? Would that really satisfy me?
Every person has a back story. Every moment is preceded by a series of other moments before it. All I knew of that woman was in that solitary moment that she breezed by me with nary a thank-you nod- it was my choice to take it personally or not.
Always one to give someone the benefit of the doubt, I took a moment to pull back my defense mechanisms, take a breath, and realize she meant absolutely no personal harm towards me. Who knows what had been on her mind? Who knows where she was rushing to or where her focus was? What I do know is that she, just like I, is human with emotions and busy-ness in her life.
I’m certain that at one point during a particularly stressful day, I quite possibly could have offended someone or accidentally neglected to use my manners. Unfortunately, to whomever the victims of my acts of accidental unkindness, those may have been the only impressions of me they will ever receive. All I can do is hope they give me the same benefit of the doubt and realize it was not at all intentional and that, had I taken a moment to pay more attention, I would have absolutely chosen to act more respectfully.
This is a lesson slowly started to form over the years working in the food service industry. Anyone that has every waited tables, served beverages, rung up orders or the like has a story of a guests’ rudeness or a personal encounter with a customer’s projection of negativity. I admit that it was definitely difficult to continuously award the benefit of the doubt when I seemingly had to bite my tongue on a daily basis, but now that I have strengthened my patience-muscle, I am able to step back, exhale and think instead of react.
Everyone has a bad day. Even I, someone with a perma-smile and a continuous laugh, have my moments. I try never to step on toes or offend, but I’m sure it has and will happen unconsciously. In keeping with the old adage, I give kindness and compassion unto others as I would hope they would give unto me. After all, life is more beautiful if we can see people as innately good-intentioned with the occasional off-day.