Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Changing In An Instant

Last week while checking out at the grocery store, I had a rather unpleasant experience.  It was something so simple it should've been no big deal, and yet it became so much more.  It was an incident that made me stop and question my own way of thinking.  Most people would think it was ridiculous and so miniscule of an experience it's not worth anything more than to be a passing aggravation.  For me, it's been more than that.  How is it possible for something so simple and innocuous to change a person in an instant?


Manners, Etiquette
Public Domain Image

I don't really know.  What I do know is this incident has made me look inward and ask if who I am on the inside is who the world sees on the outside.  Is my perception of my behavior how I really appear to others, or is my perception skewed by my own arrogance?

As I said, the incident was nothing.  It was ridiculous.  It was simply a cashier at the grocery store who became angry when I asked her to price match a single item out of the many groceries I was purchasing.  She got quite upset and didn't want to be inconvenienced to press the few extra buttons on the cash register to over-ride the store price and she made a big show out of her aggravation.

If I had been alone and experienced this, I'd have written it off as typical, but on this trip my daughter was with me.  The woman's attitude and demeanor were such that my daughter asked me what was wrong with the woman.  She wanted to know why she got so mad if this was a normal service the store offered.

My daughter's questions and bewilderment at the cashier's behavior got me to thinking:  what are we saying to younger generations when we not only act this way, but accept this level of service as normal?  Have we become such a "me" society that even when we work or are out in society, we think it's ok to behave in any manner we choose?  Why has it become ok, or even expected, to put ourselves first and to never exercise any control over our words, actions, or emotions?

The cashier was going to be working the same number of hours at her cash register whether she had to price match an item or not.  Her salary was not reduced because the store chose to entice customers to do all of their shopping in one place by price matching.  There was no excuse for her attitude and downright rudeness.  And, as a customer, because I accepted this level of service as though it were a normal part of my transaction, I perpetuated this woman's behavior. 

This incident has really made me miss Miss Manners.  I miss etiquette.  I miss social responsibility.  I miss people being held accountable by their peers.  But mostly I miss people being hospitable to their "neighbors".  I miss society having a level of expectation where cursing in public was not only frowned upon but taboo, when people dressed in nice clothing when they left their homes, when courtesy and kindness were the norm, and when people treated others as they would like to be treated.

So how has this incident affected me?  It's made me realize that I have allowed the world's view to creep in and push aside the morals and social responsibility I was brought up with.  By saying and doing nothing, I actively accepted undesirable behavior, like this woman displayed, as normal or even acceptable.  Because I have become so accustomed to this behavior, as nauseating as it makes me feel just thinking about it, I'm sure I have most likely treated people this way myself.  Having the wide-eyed innocence of my daughter question the appropriateness of this situation opened my eyes and made this a game changer.

It's wonderful that many people step out of their everyday lives to help out at soup kitchens, sort clothes at donation locations, and build homes for the needy.  But what about your everyday life?  Isn't treating all people with kindness, courtesy and respect equally as worthy?  Is it really too much effort to say please and thank you, or hold a door open for someone, or offer your seat (or maybe your place in line) to someone much older than you?

At some point, the buck has to stop somewhere.  I have presented the challenge to my children and they have chosen to accept the challenge.  From this point forward, we are going to make a concerted effort to follow Miss Manner's rules for our behavior.  We are going to work at controlling our tongues and our attitudes and truly focus on treating others as we would like to be treated.  We may not change the world, but we can change the way we touch other's lives by working to make a positive impact.

An avalanche usually begins when an outside force or sound causes an area to break free of its bonds and move with great speed.  Maybe you'll decide to join us and we can break free of the bonds of anger, disrespect, and unkindness and start an avalanche toward a better society together.  Will you pick up the gauntlet and join us in this challenge?  I hope and pray so.

Written by Christie Bielss
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