‘Be someone’s sunshine when their skies are grey’
Kindness goes a really, really, really long way. You would be surprised just how far. Usually, it isn’t the people we care most about that we forget to be kind to though. Nope; its the people who can do nothing for us, or the people who are almost background noise to a busy day. Let me explain…
The two jobs I have had since beginning uni were both waitressing. And both were hard work. Not because of the being on your feet for hours, or the remembering abbreviations for orders, or using the till, or customer service, or clearing tables, or doing maths off the top of your head occasionally, or remembering which cakes contained X allergens when customers asked, or what the three different BBQ marinades for steaks actually tasted like, or even cleaning the entire restaurant / café at the end of the night- if I’m honest I didn’t mind any of those- but because of the customers. My friends who work/have worked in retail say the exact same thing: people are simply not very nice to staff. It’s as if customers forget that staff are human too, and not just “service”. That when they moaned their cocktail wasn’t coming fast enough, we had been running around serving customers cocktails for a several hours, and that there were 10 more customers wanting cocktails too. That when they were horrible to us about a burger being cooked too rare, it was in fact the chef who had cooked it (and who could hide in the kitchen), and not us.
In waitressing and retail you learn very quickly to smile, to be polite, and hold it in until you’re well out of earshot when someone is particularly rude- in short, you learn to be professional. The customers I remember were either downright rude- or extremely kind. There was the deaf couple that everyone in the restaurant waiting team felt would be too much work on a busy shift, and so as the new girl they were put in my serving area. They were lovely. Mid-way into the night I realised that it was their wedding anniversary, and so tried to make it extra special for them. There was the group of friends in a café I worked in who chatted to me about the Durham light show they came up to every year, and told me I had to go when I got a chance- there was the old couple I had a good conversation with about our favourite types of fish. Even now, volunteering in a charity shop where every customer is pretty nice, those are the kind of people who made a long day a lot more enjoyable.
How about those who can literally do nothing for you? As a waitress there was at least the chance I’d bring lovely customers a free drink. Well, towards (I think) the end of one term in my second year of uni I was a bit miserable and headed to a café to grab a coffee. I remember being soaked through from rain, having a hefty amount of work to get done, and having no motivation to even do my creative writing portfolio. I was out of ideas, and that when you know things are bad. I was sat on a small table, for some reason missing the decorative fake flower all the others had. A little while after sitting down and spreading my work out, an elderly gentleman walked past to another table, picked up his decorative flower, and put it in front of me- looking at my work, smiling, and saying “you could use this”. I could do nothing for him, yet his random tiny act of kindness made a massive difference to my day.
I could keep going with these stories, but I think you’ve got my basic point: stand up on the bus for the lady with a walking stick, hold doors open, be nice to waitors and waitresses, chat to the person on the till, smile. This week, don’t just show kindness to those that you love. Show kindness to those you don’t even know.