Running to the store yesterday for last minute dinner supplies, I catch a moment of conversation:
I said hi because I thought you knew me, man.
Naw dude. You’re just a face in the crowd. I’m hustling everyone. I’m always hustling everyone.
Walking back to the car with my organic broccoli and gluten-free crackers the hustler is talking to a young woman. She’s barefoot with a large bag over her shoulder, belly button pierced, bandana neatly folded and holding back beach blown hair. They’re standing at my car and she can barely keep her eyes open. I approach and he turns around, startled, then flashes me a smile that would be charming if not for the blackened and missing teeth. They step aside and I watch her listen to him, eyes opening and shutting, a half smile on her lips.
I notice my judgment. I notice my curiosity. I notice my hope that she stays safe.
I woke up this morning thinking about them, about her, about judgment and about my desire to see the good in people.
My neighbors who drop their cigarette butts in the sand and let their dog shit on the beach – I want to see past my anger to the divine spark in them.
The unhappy woman I know whose face has been obviously nipped and tucked, her body carved and augmented – I want to focus on and encourage her inner light.
It’s easy to see the beauty, the good, the God, in the people in my life. It’s fairly simple to see it in the unwashed, the unwanted, even the deeply disturbed. The practice – I think – is to look for it in the angry and aggressive man weaving in and out of heavy traffic, or the twentysomething college student who kills a young father because she’s driving home drunk; to see it in the mother who shames her child for crying or the teenager who bullies his gay classmate; to see it in those who’ve hurt us deeply and especially to see it in ourselves.
This is my practice this week, my mantra: To notice judgment, acknowledge it and look for the good – the holy – in everyone and everything, knowing that I may not find it.
On Sunday i was working hard. Hustling as fast as i could, because it was just me and the owner, who had a big order she needed to get done. The first person who was really rude, nasty even, I breezed through. I kept the smile, and just powered on thru. I carried his plants to the car, and his mulch, and his stones. He stood and watched me, grousing the whole time. I am 50, he might have been 35? he had a very specific political bumper sticker on his car, which made me roll my eyes inside my head.
The second one that came along treated me like I was a serf. This plant was to small, this to big, why were our prices so high? ( 59Cents higher than wallmart , don’t you know) She didn’t like how that plant looked, where was this, and when another person asked me a question, she snapped at them that I was ” helping her!” “people,” she snorted at me, can’t wait their turn.” After 45 minutes of running around and listening to her complaints and nit picking, I put her order in her car and saw her bumper sticker. Political, exact opposite party of the earlier nasty. I realized a she drove off that I have a very deep , DEEP prejudice against people who are party line political. I wondered about that for a long time. Still thinking about it today. I wonder if it is not unlike you trying to see the godspark in some one, I am trying to understand why I despise people who wear there political party ideology like a badge of honor.
Is it our humanity? i wonder what it is…
It seems to me that the noticing and the wondering and the trying to understanding is what matters most. I wonder if there’s any human on the planet who has completely rid him or herself of all negative judgment. I doubt it. I do think we can learn to not react to, or act from them (which it sounds like you did rather beautifully).
You said, …”I am trying to understand why I despise people who wear there political party ideology like a badge of honor.” All too often people use props like bumper stickers, T-shirts, religions, political alignment, etc.. in order to create an image that they feel the need to create for whatever reason. However, it’s just a superficial image and may not even reflect their values, beliefs or true character. I would bet that if the customer were compassionate, respectful and friendly that her political alignment would have meant nothing to you or perhaps you might have even thought that she was different from others that fit the political stereotype that we create. You may not have even noticed her bumper sticker had she been a more likable customer.
I’ve seen cars with several religious fish and religious bumper stickers recklessly speeding down the road, cutting in and out of traffic and just being plain rude and dangerous. They don’t seem to have any respect or value for safety and anyone’s life and yet they are advertising G-d. Your words reminded me that I also feel a bit negative toward others that display this type of pretentiousness and lack of transparency. You see, I’m very dog-like in that I feel very uncomfortable around insincere or disingenuous people. It’s not so much that the people are bad but more that they are not being authentic and because of that I don’t trust them. I believe that your body sensed that you were reacting to this woman by becoming someone that you are not and subconsciously, you resented her influence on you. In a way, it’s sort of like an honest person becoming an unwilling accessory to someone else’s lie. Does that make sense?
It’s tough working in customer service when you have those type of negative customers. In our personal lives we have more freedom to choose whether to stay or leave. Just having the awareness of how someone is affecting us can have a positive effect on others who are attempting to bring us down. I tried an experiment once with a deli clerk who was just being so rude and downright ugly. I almost cursed at her but I stopped and asked her what I could do to help her feel better. She was stunned by my comment and very embarrassed. I don’t think she realized how others were noticing her bad attitude. She apologized to me over and over again. After I got my food, I went to the flower section and bought her a daisy and brought it back to her. It wasn’t too long after that she was promoted to the pharmacy and she’s still there today. Whenever she sees me she always tells everyone that I’m the woman who makes people smile and she always gives me a big mama bear hug. I still don’t know her name after all these years but every time I see her, I’m reminded of the power that we all have to change the world around us.
Wow Alana this is really powerful! I struggle with this all the time. How to find good in the cruel or the angry or annoying. Thank you for this!
Kristin Noelle says
I love this, Alana. Thank you.