Show Kindness, No Matter What
These past two years have been especially hard on everyone. But one good thing that came out of this pandemic was a general sense of empathy for one another as many of us faced similar struggles. This World Kindness Day, it’s important to remember the struggles faced by all of the people in your life and to show kindness to them, whether they’re a family member, a friend, a distant acquaintance, or a stranger on the street.
Everyone deserves kindness. The moments where we forget this can have a huge impact on those around us. It could be as simple as forgetting to hold the door open for the person behind you or stealing a cab from someone who has been patiently waiting. Maybe you were in a hurry and didn’t say thank you to the barista who made your morning coffee. Any of these small infractions can leave another person feeling dejected, degraded, and/or even depressed.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of such infractions, including me. One time in particular stands out for me: I was 19 and working a summer job in retail to help pay for college expenses between semesters.
I had worked a long shift mainly by myself, so I had to walk the floor to help customers and run the cash register to check them out. It was closing time, but we still had a lot of work to do to clean up the store before we could leave. However, we couldn’t even start our closing tasks until the store was empty and we had locked the doors. Company policy meant that we couldn’t kick anyone out of the store, even if it was past closing time. And, people took advantage of this fact all the time.
An old woman walked in around three minutes before we were set to close. I walked over to help her, but, if I’m being honest, it was mostly to get her out of the store as quickly as possible. I smiled and chirped out the canned greeting we were trained to repeat to customers. Instead of a smile, I was greeted with a look of contempt and an air of hostility. I clocked this type of customer immediately — I had run into them all summer. I knew she was going to ask a number of questions, be as difficult as possible for as long as she could, and then ultimately waste my time as she purchased nothing. But, I kept my cheery demeanor going as I fielded her questions.
"Everyone deserves kindness. The moments where we forget this can have a huge impact on those around us."
Eventually, she picked up one of our used tester lip glosses that had been pretty much mauled by customers. The tip looked disgusting and slimy from being mishandled by dozens of people prior. She handed me the tube. “Put it on,” she ordered. Dutifully, I dabbed a bit of the lip gloss on my wrist while explaining that the skin in that area was the closest in color to the skin on the lips, as we were trained to do. I gestured to her wrist for her to follow suit, so she could see how the color would complement her own skin tone. She was having none of it.
“No, put it on your lips,” she barked. I was dumbfounded. The tube was noticeably unsanitary. I, being of mixed-raced Indian descent, had completely different coloring than she did. I was already wearing makeup, including lipstick. And, most importantly, I was a human being and not some mannequin without feelings that she could boss around. I stared at her for a moment, surprised by her rudeness, while I contemplated my response. I ended up explaining to her that since I was already wearing lipstick, it wouldn’t make sense for me to put the lip gloss on as it wouldn’t give her an accurate depiction of what the gloss would look like. She rolled her eyes and ended up leaving not long after, of course without purchasing a single item. She did manage to force me to stay 15 unpaid minutes after the end of my shift, however, at a job where I was making $7.25 an hour (before taxes).
Despite this interaction having taken place years ago, it has stayed with me. It was so dehumanizing, so disheartening, so without empathy that I never forgot how that woman made me feel. I try to remember those feelings when I interact with anyone working a service job. I never want to make someone else feel how that woman made me feel that day.
Beyond showing basic human decency and kindness to strangers in the service industry, I’d also like to remind everyone to tip. It can’t be said enough: If you cannot afford to tip on a service that you’re receiving in an industry where tipping is expected, that means you cannot afford to use the service. There is a real human cost involved in bringing you this service and when you don’t tip, it could really be negatively impacting someone’s life. You may have just forced someone to provide their labor for mere pennies in return. No one should be treated that poorly.
Whether you are speaking to a customer service representative on the phone, asking for help in your favorite store, or just passing someone on the street, you should try to be aware of how your actions can impact others. The more kindness and empathy we can bring to our lives and others, the better the world will be for all of us. Let’s treat others with respect, and that means everyone in your life, no matter who they are to you.