It costs $0.00 to be a decent human being

It costs $0.00 to be a decent human being

Acting with human decency has been described by various phrases across history.  Doing a “good deed” and going “the second mile” ring true from my childhood.  We have been challenged to do “random acts of kindness” and to “pay it forward”.  “Radical hospitality” is a more recent phrase.  All of these ask us to do more than the minimum to “love one another”.  I believe that this is a basic tenet of all societies and religions.     

It is important to be a decent human being to everyone, but I am going to reflect on some of my opportunities to be decent to strangers.  There is no requirement to interact with people you do not know but I find great adventure and usually mutual benefit from these conversations.  I know I told my children “don’t talk to strangers”.  That concept was so hard to define.  One of them encountered an elderly gentleman waiting outside of a medical building as we approached the door.  The man said “hello” and my well-trained child replied, “I am not going to get in your car and I’m not going to eat your poison candy either.”  So much for abstract concepts.   I hope the man was not there for a cardiology appointment.

I am frequently reminded of my opportunity to engage when I encounter customer service.  Restaurants are a great venue for service at its finest or worst.  After a comfortable, warm, pleasant experience with wait staff, I say to myself “It doesn’t take any more energy to be nice”.   I often invite banter, humor, and brief conversation that can make the service experience enjoyable for both of us.  What do I have in common with a twenty-something server?  You might be surprised.  Cashiers also deserve a smile, positive comment, and patience to break the hypnotizing monotony of the beeps from the barcode and credit card readers.  Remember they are the people who decide whether bananas get packed with canned goods.

My reaching out extends to other customers as well.  Waiting in line is an opportunity to discuss recipes, crafts, projects, children, and other topics.  Living in the suburbs/country makes this easier.  I have only had one negative response to my attempts to spark conversation in line.  I asked someone who was also waiting to have fabric cut, “What are you making?”  After she snapped, “Why do you want to know?” I made a comment about making conversation and stopped talking.   I guess her mother must have told her not to talk to strangers.

My favorite story about waiting in line involved talking to a young couple with a baby in a stroller.  Babies are great topics.  When they had checked out, the man handed me a $10.00 bill “just because”.  I thanked him and handed it back assuring him I was doing okay.  The next time I was in line at that same store, the young man in front of me realized his pay check had not yet reached his checking account.  He started pulling non-essentials from his cart so his cash would cover his order.  When my turn came, I told the cashier to put his extra groceries on the beginning of my order so I could pay for them.  The cashier and customer were both surprised.  By the way, the extra groceries came to $10.00.  Coincidence?  I think not.  But that’s a topic for another post.


If you want to develop social skills for community involvement, make an appointment with Dr. June.

Written by : June Bond

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