It really is a sad testament to humanity when being kind is significant enough to point it out with thanks. Don’t get me wrong, I think we should all be thankful for things in our lives. Some things, however, shouldn’t be so rare as to warrant a thanks.
- When most people meet me, they don’t punch me in the face. I do not thank them for that. It’s sorta what I expect them to not do.
- If you don’t run into my car at a traffic light, I wouldn’t expect a thank-you card in the mail.
- If you avoid peeing on my foot when we’re standing at adjacent urinals — I won’t thank you for it.
- If you don’t steal my wallet, I’m unlikely to draw attention to it.
- If you don’t dump gasoline on my house and decide to take up smoking — I still won’t thank you.
Now, note that it’s not a matter of not being thankful for such things. I don’t particularly enjoy getting punched in the face or having my house burned down. It seems to be a social norm, however, that NOT stealing my wallet is a fair expectation.
Anyway, I said all that to preempt a story. When I was shopping for Houston-y gifts at the airport before I came home last week, I brought my chosen parcel to the counter and paid for it. I was kind to the lady behind the counter. I smiled, I thanked her for offering to bag my goods, and I genuinely wished her a good day. She responded with, “Thank you for your kindness.”
It struck me as a strange thing to say. I think it was largely because she looked very sincere when she said it, and it didn’t seem like a fluffy, “have a nice day” type response. I was intrigued, so I hung around the store a bit to see how she acted around others. I thought perhaps since she was of an ethnicity that I’m not often exposed to, that perhaps I was the odd fish out, and thanking for kindness was quite normal.
Then I realized why she had thanked me.
It turns out that most of the suits in the airport that were buying their newspapers and such treated the lady as if she didn’t exist. They would talk on their cellphones while paying. They would ignore her attempts at any sort of interaction. Most people looked right through her. How arrogant and self-absorbed have we become as a society that a store clerk is “beneath” us?
Treat your clerks kindly. They’re people. They’re probably more interesting than any of us. If you get a smile from one of them, you are the lucky one. 🙂