Welcome to the third installment of this ‘Life‘ series I’ve been doing. This summer retail job sure has been teaching me a lot and breaking down all the naive delusions I had about people and the world. A few days ago, I was working in the fitting room, which is always absolute chaos. We have people coming in with more than the max number of items, clothes hanging off of each other and about to fall onto the floor, threatening to join the rest of our unprocessed clothes. We have people trying to leave and give us the clothes they don’t want anymore, to be hung on our overflowing rack. We also have coworkers coming in and out of the employee room, nestled right behind the fitting room. Basically it’s a huge traffic jam, with accidents inevitably waiting to happen. So that’s exactly what happened – an accident, a mistake, obviously not intentional, thought that apparently doesn’t make the situation better.
A customer had 16 items, so I sent her to an empty fitting room with only 10 items, our max, and held the rest of the items on the table for her to try on later. I tried to tell my coworker from across the room that these items were on hold for someone, but all the noise and craziness drowned out my efforts. The customer came out of the fitting room, and when I looked back to the table, the clothes were all gone. I had no idea what had happened. The clothes were already put back on the rack, ready to be taken back to the store floor.
My anxiety grew as I realized it was my mistake and I would have to own up to it to the customer. As I tried explaining how we miscommunicated and couldn’t find the rest of her items, she started lecturing me about how we have literally the worst customer service and she didn’t want to hear our ‘excuses’ because that wouldn’t make it any better, because she had spent half an hour finding all the clothes. After profusely apologizing, she walked away and threw the rest of the clothes into my arms.
So what did I learn from this? Initially, I was extremely (and hopefully understandably) upset from being yelled at for the first time by a customer. But what if there’s more to her behavior towards me? As my friend put it, ‘she probz was just having a bad day. Like had bad toast or something.’ Maybe she did have some bad toast – I could totally understand why she was having a bad day then and took it out on us. We don’t even have to make up stories to realize everyone goes through hard times, since we know how hard the world is firsthand.
I first watched the video This Is Water in high school when my favorite teacher, who really seemed to know that life is about more than just school, played the video for us. David Foster Wallace reminds us in this video how our attitude is a choice. Just like with the carrot, egg, and coffee story, we can always choose how we go through hard times, and we can always choose how we see, and therefore interact with, other people.
Rather than complaining and wondering why people are acting the way they are, we must see people first and foremost as who they really are – orphaned children of God. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all [Isaiah 53:6]. When we see others as orphans and stray sheep, when that’s our lens for life, we can’t help but show love and have compassion. We can’t help but empathize and understand that everyone needs that kindness and compassion of a Savior. We can show others His love ourselves through Jesus who works in us to create a new us beyond what we can imagine or on our own strength. On my own strength, I’m not even sure how kind I could have been to this customer, but Jesus says no, in Him, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me [Galatians 2:20]. Christ brings out the best in me, because He is the only good in me.