I was leaving an ATM banking center and a gentleman suddenly appeared at the door, about to enter. Not only did he make room for me to exit past him, but he smiled and stepped back a little and off to the side and held the door open as I left. I smiled back at him and said, “Thank you so much!” “You’re welcome,” he grinned back. I was still smiling as I walked up the street to my next errand. I kept thinking about the encounter for quite awhile. The memory of it came back to me off and on during the rest of the day. It was always accompanied by a big smile.
I’m accustomed to saying “Thank you” to people. I’m accustomed to people saying “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” to me. What was so different this time? I remembered that we had made eye contact briefly during our exchange. (So often we engage in these brief encounters without making eye contact.) As our eyes met, his smiling face imprinted on my brain and kept radiating happy energy for a long time afterward. It finally occurred to me that it was the happiness with which the gentleman did what he did that was infectious. It was as if he was over flowing with joyful energy and he transferred some of it to me as he held the door open. He was also conscious and completely in the moment with me as he extended his gentlemanly gesture.
I made an immediate resolution to practice being consciously connected and positive when encountering people while I am out and about. I admit that my resolve lost energy not long after my enlightenment, but I am trying to remind myself to return to my “connect cheerfully” agenda.
Think for a minute, about the world we would be living in if we all left our homes prepared to acknowledge every stranger with whom we crossed paths in a conscious and upbeat way. I’m not talking about a huge investment of time and emotional energy. I live in a city. City dwellers learn to put on blinders in order to survive. It would be exhausting to engage every person we pass on the street or in stores with full-throttle emotion. But we can be aware of the energy transferred when we are required to acknowledge another person’s presence.
Something that has bothered me for years is a check-out person who talks to another employee while ringing up my merchandise. We’ve all experienced people that throw things into a bag and take our money without ever actually looking at us. (Admit it, it drives you crazy too.) I realize that sales people are basically trapped and are often forced to endure rude behavior and even abuse. Still, it’s demeaning to be giving money to someone who refuses to acknowledge your existence. (Could it be that they are transferring their resentment the same way the courteous gentleman transferred his cheerful mood?)
Because of the economic downturn, more and more successful stores are ramping up their customer service. The consensus seems to be that treating customers with respect increases sales. I know that there are stores I dread setting foot in. Then there are other stores from which I leave feeling better than when I arrived. Friendly, engaged customer service can snap me right out of an impatient funk. (You do have those impatient funks, too? Right?)
I’m renewing my resolve to remember that I alter a place with the energy that I leave behind me when I pass through it. I’m going to set a goal for myself. I going to have one encounter every day in which I participate in a way that offers a blessing to another human being. (Of course, it’s up to them whether or not they choose to receive it.)
I tend to meditate and problem solve when I’m walking from one place to another. Sometimes it’s the only “private thinking time” I get during the day. I’ve come to treasure it. However, I’m determined to start taking breaks from my walking retreats to focus on my surroundings and the other people in them. I’m going to start making note of my effect on my surroundings for a least a small part of the time.
We can’t be “on” all the time. It would be exhausting to greet every stranger we see during the day with a robust, interactive salutation. There must, however, be cues to let us know when a little extra attention will produce an impactful affect. Perhaps the gentleman at the ATM was guided to pull me up and out of myself to ward off some negativity lying in wait further down my path. Perhaps he needed a reciprocal audience for his good nature in order to renew his own good nature. Perhaps both those things are true.