I have a story for you, but like all good stories some background detail is needed . . .
While I have the honor of working at O’Connor and managing this awesome blog, I also have a part-time job in retail, at a bookstore to be specific, and I am coming up on my 6th holiday season working in books. While I love working in a bookstore and I love the holidays – when I think of the combination of the two I cringe. I used to love working during the holidays, my spirits were high and I could smile at anyone – but after 6 long years of customer service it’s become harder to enjoy each year when my cozy sweet store becomes full of racing & harried people that can’t take a second to smile or say “thank you” for helping them.
Now to my story, just last week I had a strange experience leaving work that has blossomed into a great lesson and something I’m humbled to share with you. My tale starts simple enough:
I was off work and walked out the doors of my store. I waited for several cars to pass by before there was a small break, I stepped out in to the street.
The closest approaching car zoomed toward me, slammed on their breaks just next to me and you know what the driver did? He looked at me with outrage and disgust – like stopping for me was a complete waste of his time.
My first thought was: “He doesn’t care about me.”
“What did I do to him to deserve that?” I wondered, walking to my car. I began to feel more downcast with each step; his reaction devalued me as a person, I was just a stranger passing in the street and he would rather be at the stop sign 3 seconds earlier than allow me safe passage.
His rudeness hurt. I had just spent the day working, serving & caring for people I didn’t know because it’s part of my job & I like giving my best. I thought about the smiles I had helped bring to my customer’s faces that day & on other days, too. I work hard to give great service but that rude driver changed my motive – I no longer just want to give great service or be helpful, I want to show my co-workers, my customers, and strangers that I VALUE them. Do you believe every life has meaning? I do, I don’t always know what it is & sometimes it can seem as if some people live in pointless ways, but how dare I rely on my poor judgment to determine the value of a stranger in front of me?
The rude driver gave me a passion to show value to others, to do what he couldn’t, to help heal the wounds that he and others like him have created.
I realized have the power to make someone in an instant, feel valued or worthless. The power of a smile, a patient action, the kind wave of a hand.
I think that going into the holiday season having endured that lesson & gained a new passion is going to make the customer-craziness much more bearable. After all, they’re not just “crazy customers” – they’re real people with families, loves & souls, and gosh, I forget that way too easily each year.
In talking about books and this festive time of year I’m reminded of one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail“. In it, Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), is telling Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) that he didn’t mean to put her sweet little book store out of business. He says, “It’s not personal, it’s business”. Take a moment; have you ever treated a store employee with that attitude, or as if they are only as valuable as the results they give you? I’ve had many people treat me that way and almost always for reasons out side of my control.
I love Kathleen’s response, “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s *personal* to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?”
Go make someone feel valued, be personal, smile at them and enjoy their smile back.
Also, this is how I look as I write this to you . . . (not really but it’s how I feel I look, I hope that counts!)
When was the last time someone made you feel unimportant?
How did you respond?
What are some ways you plan on making others feel valued by you over this next month?