I was slapped in the face with empathy and kindness. I'm gladly sharing the story of my impatience.
I work at a local running store. I spend most of my time fitting people for shoes with specific needs. Little old ladies, soccer moms, elite runners, weekend warriors. You name it, I've helped them with shoes. People can be picky. That's okay. We're there to help. It's what we do and we're proud to do it. I usually am very patient and understanding with customers. I do my best to create an awesome atmosphere for them to remember. I keep good conversation and take a genuine interest in people sitting across from me.
Today, for no good reason I lost my patience a bit. I pray I didn't show it externally. I hope I internalized it.
My shift ends at 3pm. The last hour of work I get antsy to get home and let my dogs out, especially on a beautiful sunny day in November. Today I had a woman for the entire last hour that was very particular to what she wanted. Again, that's okay. I kept my cool while she tried on a number of shoes and she walked out with a pair she was happy with.
3:02pm. Shift over. BOOM. In walks a lady. Looks at me, "I need a pair of shoes just like these but not pink. I don't like pink." It was past 3pm. Deep inhale through my nose. "Okay, no problem. Have a seat over here with me."
We tried a couple shoes on that were very comparable to her old pair of shoes, all of which had a little bit of pink trim. "I'm sorry but I just can't do the pink." She was being very kind and patient with me. I wasn't being mean to her, sadly just being short and not very enthusiastic like I usually am. While I did my best to internalize it, I think she felt my tension. "Sorry I don't like pink." I kept the conversation short, unlike usual, trying to get her to focus on the task and get her out the door so I could get home.
3:34pm. She finds a pair. We walk up to the register. I tell her the total and she hands me her card while telling me she has bought inserts here for her son that plays golf. I recognize the last name and put two and two together. It broke me.
She is the mother of two guys I went to high school with and knew pretty well. Her older son had been missing for some time and after spending weeks sleeplessly looking for him, she had learned that he had overdosed on heroin and fentanyl. Here, I'm rushing her out the door in a hurry to get home because I worked an extra half hour. She buried her son. I can't imagine the weight she carries every day of her life.
I broke down but kept from crying. "I'm so very sorry for your loss. I went to high school with your sons and I'm so very sorry."
We talked for the next fifteen minutes. She told me the story in detail and I could see the pain in her eyes. I could tell it was comforting to her to have my attention and empathy. I don't know that I blinked. I do know for sure I didn't move a muscle. I felt so guilty and remorseful for how I treated her. I empathized her as my own mother. I can't even begin to imagine. The whole time she had been very soft and patient with me.
I'm sharing this story, still fresh on my mind because it's so real and so ironic a time to have such a deep moment. What happened today with that woman was something I won't soon forget. You never know someone's story; what they've been through, what they've suffered and endured. People have quirks, people have certain ways of thinking. People are different. People look different. All these things are a product of their environment and experience as human beings. People have a story. I'm so very glad I decided to look at the last name on the card. I'm so glad she told me her younger son played golf. I'm glad I asked and I'm glad she's such a strong, soft spoken person.
A microcosm of our world today. Much like I was in a hurry to get home and not be kind and patient to this women, so often we're in a hurry. We're too quick to judge and too slow to truly connect. Quick to walk away, quick to point fingers. Quick to assume.
I pray we learn to deal more kindly with each other. Hear people out. Understand and empathize our different stories, struggles and how they shape us. Only then will we learn to work together and love each other for who we truly are.