by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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Recently I was in a store doing some holiday shopping when I witnessed a very sad situation, particularly at this time of the year. Another shopper in the store, who had a cart full of gifts, was engaging in a conversation with an employee of the store. To say this was a conversation is putting it too nicely. The shopper was very upset that the employee did not have any more of a certain gift that was out of stock on the shelf. The employee had already checked in the back and was notifying the customer that they simply did not have any more of the item. The employee shared that he would be happy to check the stock at another store to see if they had it. He also notified the customer that trucks would be coming the next day with a delivery and that the item would probably be in stock by the end of the next day. These options were simply not sufficient for the now extremely upset customer who began yelling at the employee. Amazingly the very young employee just stood and nodded his head and continuing to restate his apologies that the item was not currently available. I was amazed at the patience of this employee, who was just a kid trying to make some money for the holidays, who clearly did not have any control over the ordering of product, and definitely did not deserve to be yelled at. I thought to myself, I wonder how many times he, and other employees at stores throughout the nation, had experienced this response during holiday shopping.
After the customer finally walked away shaking her head and muttering to herself, I approached the employee who was now busy restocking shelves. When I said, “Excuse me,” the employee looked at me with this look like “Oh no, now what did I do wrong now?” I said, “No, no, no complaints here. I just wanted to tell you that I am amazed at your patience in dealing with that customer. She had no right to yell at you. Thank you for all that you do. Best wishes for happy holidays!” The young man just smiled and said, “Thank you, happy holidays to you too!”
As I walked away I thought about the number of times that we get frustrated, upset, and angry at situations. The hustle and bustle of the holidays seems to bring out the worst in us, when it should bring out the best of us. Kids are always warned at this time of year, be careful and be on your best behavior because Santa is watching you. And yet, as adults we don’t seem to care who’s watching us or how we might be behaving. Our needs trump the needs of everyone else. We make excuses for ourselves like: “Do you know how busy I am?” “Do you know how many people I have to get gifts for?” “Do you know how many parties I have to go to this year?” “Do you know how important I am?” It is as though we let ourselves off the hook because everything we are going through is more important or more difficult than anyone else. So we have a right to treat others poorly because they are not as important as us. Sure this was a kid working at the holidays for minimum wage, and probably not as accomplished as this customer who was probably a very important person in their workplace. But there was no reason for one person to treat another person like that.
There is no denying that the holidays can be extremely busy, but we have to be very careful that we don’t allow this busyness to take over our lives and lose the opportunity to have happy holidays. I have made a it a point no matter how tired or frustrated or busy I am, to smile at others in stores, to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to those I encounter, and to make time for fun with those I care about. By simply resisting the urge to get mad, upset, or frustrated we can have happy holidays. I was still thinking about this as I drove my car out of the parking lot after that shopping trip. Those happy thoughts about others and the holidays helped me when I stopped my car for an elderly man wearing a WWII veteran hat and his wife who were crossing very, very slowly in front of me as they walked into the store. The old man waved and I waved back. It was at that time that the guy in the car behind me honked repeatedly and then tore out around me to pass. As he passed me he honked again and flipped me off. I simply waved back and smiled and thought, some people just don’t get it. He then slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting the man, and then once he had clearance peeled out of the parking lot. I started my car slowly and just shook my head thinking, “Some people just don’t get what the holidays are all about.” So I wonder then what kind of holiday season you want to have. The kind that makes everyone else around you miserable or the kind that brings a smile to their faces and spreads that holiday cheer? I think you know by now the type of season I plan to have!