"Excuse me, sir. I was wondering where the wine is?"
In a thick accent, he began explaining the laws in Oklahoma, and that wine could not be sold in a grocery store. I thanked him for helping me, and explained that I was new to the area, having just moved from Ohio. And so, our conversation began.
There are times when we can feel entitled and privileged. Times when we focus so much on what we think we need that we have no thought or concern for others. Times when we look down on Walmart workers and McDonald's employees, thinking that they are failures, or that because "they're getting paid to do their jobs," we can treat them however we want. But as I stood there in Walmart speaking with this man, I realized in a whole new way that each of these people has a soul, has a life, has a story.
Some people probably walked by this employee that night thoughtlessly, perhaps rolling their eyes and thinking about what a "loser" he is for working in Walmart. Little did they know that this older gentleman is fluent in multiple languages, has a degree in forestry from Albania-his home country-and is quite a nice person. Little did they know that this very intelligent and qualified man could not find work in his field of expertise in Oklahoma-and so here he was, cheerfully putting cartons of yogurt on the shelf.
I know that sometimes, if we're so focused on what we want, we take out our frustration on whomever is in the vicinity-the woman operating the cash register, the man working at customer service. We cannot do this. Every person has immense dignity, and we owe each employee and worker our utmost respect. They aren't lifeless robots that perform tasks; they are people with lives, struggles, and joys.
That woman who is ringing up your groceries? She came back to this job two months after giving birth via c-section, and works very hard to provide for her two sweet children.
That woman who is packing up your thrift store purchases? She loves her grandchildren very much, but they don't visit often, so she longs to talk with someone about them.
With the holiday season coming, particularly with Black Friday sales, multitudes of people will be crowding stores and restaurants. And when you're frustrated that you didn't get the item you wanted, or when you're mad at how slow the customer service line is moving, please remember: Every retail worker has a soul. Every restaurant worker has a soul. And not only that, but each of these people has a life and story. So stop looking at them and treating them as if they are emotionless individuals or servants that you can look down upon. Instead, let's treat them with dignity, respect, and love.
On a final note, I also want to add that remembering how workers are people doesn't just apply during the upcoming holiday season, but also rings true the entire year-and it's particularly important to keep on mind regarding Sundays and other holidays. As I wrote in a post a couple years ago:
"Even if people aren't working on Sundays (which is great for them!), I think more people need to realize what happens when they still frequent businesses on Sundays. When people do this, they may not think about the fact that they are causing the business owners to make people work. Working in a restaurant, I really saw this first-hand. If lots of people came to eat on a Sunday, not only would quite a few workers be scheduled, but the boss or manager would call up and tell people to drop everything and come in. But, when the restaurant was slow, with practically no customers, the manager would start sending people home."Let's learn to love each other more.
Let's build community.
Let's see the dignity and worth of every single worker.
Let's be open to hearing the stories of others, if they wish to share them.
And by doing all of this, we will truly change our world.