Sunday, November 17, 2013

I'm Dreaming of a Nice Christmas

Just after we were married, I took a part-time job in a local Christian bookstore while looking for a full-time job. I figured that a Christian bookstore would be a safe and fun place to work. Besides, with an English degree, the idea of being surrounded by books for hours on end was highly appealing.

My first shift there, I was greeted by very friendly coworkers and coached on the registers by my new boss. Everything was going swimmingly, and I was catching on pretty quickly with my prior retail knowledge. To my delight, a mother and her young son who looked to be about five-years-old came up to the counter to buy a few things. As I picked up the mother's items to start ringing them through, I smiled down at her son and asked if he liked Larry Boy from VeggieTales. He was sporting a Larry Boy shirt, and looked like he might really enjoy the vegetable dressed as a superhero. He smiled back and responded, "Yes!"

And then the mother snapped. And I mean snapped. I suddenly found myself dodging a flying Bible that moments before the mother was about to buy as she screamed at me to stop flirting and looking at her son. Stunned, I tried to explain myself, but instead watched her run yelling from the store...leaving her son and his grandmother standing awkwardly at the counter. The grandmother was absolutely humiliated by her daughter's overreaction and apologized profusely for the fact that I had just had a Bible thrown at me and been accused very wrongly when I hadn't done anything wrong.

I politely rang up the purchases that the grandmother wanted to make. The second they walked out the door, my boss who had seen everything asked if I was going to leave and never come back. Of course I wasn't, but my main question was, "So, do you guys get Bibles thrown at you often here?"

Now obviously, the lady was certifiably nuts. I worked there for several months, through the crazy Christmas season and never had to dodge another Bible, but I was appalled at the way I was treated on numerous occasions in a Christian self-proclaimed Christians.

Seriously, sometimes I'm flat out ashamed to be lumped in with the general Christian population. With some of the stuff I've seen, is it any wonder that there are people who shy away from us?

Lately, I seem to be extra bothered by the lack of respect given to people who work hourly jobs. It bothers me because these people are working hard to support their families and dealing with jerks who end up in their lines. Customer service, in any form, ain't pretty.

Because of that, I make a conscious effort to engage with and thank everyone who comes across my path. Whether it is a grocery store cashier, a restaurant server, a sales person, or a customer service rep on the phone, I always treat them with the utmost respect. I'm a firm believer that the world would be a little kinder if everyone had to put some time in behind the counter. Think about Sam the Butcher from the Brady Bunch and Mr. McFeeley, the mailman from Mr. Rogers. Those people were friends with their customers, and their customers enjoyed seeing them!

Next week is Thanksgiving, that means that the harried, stressful days of pre-Christmas prep are right behind it. I would love for you to go through this season reminding yourself that the man or woman across the counter or on the other end of the phone is a human as well. Even if they seem "off" or a little rude, remember that there could be something else on their mind. Maybe they are stressed about making Christmas happen for their kids, their mom just ended up in the hospital, or the customer who just left their line yelled at them.

And I shouldn't have to say this, but unfortunately, I do. If you claim to be a Christian, make extra sure that you are treating the person who is helping you with respect. Nothing will destroy your witness (and the witness of Christians in general) faster than being an asshole. Blunt, but true.

It takes zero extra energy to treat a seasonal or hourly worker with gratefulness as an equal. Don't be the customer who is a jerk. Be the customer that they are sad to see go. You may never see what it does for their spirits, but as someone who has dodged a flying Bible, your kindness may very well be the highlight of their day.


  1. Wow, what a great story! Thanks for sharing! I'm so glad you wrote this post. I have worked in retail as well and have often thought that the world would be a better place if everyone had to work in in customer service at some point in their life.

  2. You really did a great job with this post! I agree, we should all get a chance to be a cashier or a customer service person for a week or so and our empathy for them would skyrocket. Even just playing a video game about being a waitress has improved my respect level for them. This is such a good reminder to us all. I will certainly make a conscious effort to be nicer.

  3. There's a general lack of compassion, respect, understanding and courtesy in the world these days. It makes me sad the way people treat each other and I don't understand why they do that :( And then kids see it too and pick up that attitude. ACK! I feel really bad for pharmacy workers. I see them get berated and hollered at all the time because a medication is expensive or their insurance didn't go through, things they had no control over. I always try to be super nice to them.

  4. I can't believe you had a Bible actually thrown at you! Oh my! I love your statement: "Nothing will destroy your witness (and the witness of Christians in general) faster than being an asshole." It's soooooo true.

    While I'm positive I'd never be one of the jerk customers, thank you for the reminder to take the extra effort to be NICE to store employees!

  5. Very well written! I totally agree with you and always try to be very nice to those who are serving us. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Having been worked in various service industries, I can definitely tell some stories of the most rude and appalling behaviour. At times, outright assault even - much like your flying bible. So I have no problem dipping into some extra patience when the busy season arrives.
    Plus, like you say, I always try to be mindful that I might be the only bible someone ever sees.

  7. Great post. I've worked through multiple holiday seasons in a couple of different retail establishments and it's always a super fun time, dealing with customers if you know what I mean. That being said, I think this is a great post for everyone, because sometimes even the associate can be a little rude which doesn't help their case. But if we're all nice, things will go a lot smoother. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Flirting with her son over a Veggie Tales T-shirt? Seriously? That's the one thing I don't like about the holidays is it brings out the very worst in some people. Rather than focusing on the meaning, the time with family, the time to be thankful, people are rushing around trying to worry about the material aspects of gifts and food. Great post about slowing down, having gratitude and focusing on what's important.

  9. I love your reminder that when people we encounter seem a little "off," it could be because of things going on in their lives that we know nothing about. I really try to remember that every person has a struggle and a little kindness could go a long way.


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