Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Things that are weird: Being nice to people.

  I attend a ministry at my church that serves young adults around the college-age. Over the summer our numbers dwindle a bit due to all the people going home from school, so our college pastor leads a small group at his house over the summer. This summer we are reading the book WEIRD: Because Normal Isn't Working by Craig Groeschel. This book takes a look at what makes Christians different from the rest of the world, if anything and celebrates the idea of weirdness versus mediocrity and what is popular. 

  One of the things i've been doing as I have started reading this book is taking notes on things I see in my own life. I find it interesting how many ideas and behaviors are considered strange by our secular society, or outside of the norm simply because they are biblical in nature. It's encouraging me to stop striving to be considered normal and start acting a little weird myself. 

  One of the things that i've found a little weird today in our society is being nice, and expecting the best out of others instead of the worst. 

  Being a waitress, you don't expect to receive much kindness throughout the course of your day. In fact, I have come to the point in my job where I walk in to Pizza Hut at 10 am, expecting to walk out thoroughly defeated at 4pm. I expect the snide comments, demands to speak with management, threats on my well-being (not kidding) and worst of all, the "nice" people.

  Yes, the "nice" people are the worst part of my day. Not nice, but "nice". Let me explain...

  There is a sector of customers who use passive-aggressive tactics to make waitstaff feel like crap. These are the folks who use patronizing, sarcastic tones with a waitress while using words like "please" or "thank you" or worst yet, call you "hon". Their words (usually over-exaggerated and pronounced as if they are speaking to a toddler) are kind, but as you glance into the faces of these customers you know they are really thinking " you are a complete moron of a waitress, but I am socially obligated to use a pet name for you so I don't appear totally rude."

  Yeah, it sucks. It totally changes your mindset on customer service, to the point where nice people, make you very nervous. I never, ever take anyone at face value anymore. I am constantly wondering about their motives or intent, even if they seem perfectly lovely. 

  For instance, today I was waiting on a young woman and her young son. I had her pegged instantly as a "nice" person. She smiled too widely, said "thank you" too many times and even asked her son to stop playing table hockey with his ice on the table, because "I don't want you making a mess for the waitress".

  "Oh crap" I thought, "she's being nice". Instantly my brain went into defense mode.

  I braced myself for the inevitable change in tone, a rolled eye, sarcastic remark....something. People aren't just friendly to strangers for no reason you know. As I went to place her order, I almost backed away from the table as if I were being held hostage: slowly and without taking my eyes off the "nice" person. She probably thought I was insane, but really I was just protecting myself from the fallout that was soon to come.

  Then it happened, about ten feet from her table as I nearly reached the service station I heard a saccharin-sweet voice ring out from the "nice" woman's table; "hey hon? Could you come here for a minute?"

  I sighed to myself, and gulped. Here it was, she was about to humiliate me because her tea had too much ice, or because she didn't like the store lighting, or some other ridiculous crap that had offended her. I made my way quickly back to the table, and prepared mentally for the worst. Only to hear the following statement:

  "Have you been waitressing a long time? You do a wonderful job. We only come here to eat when we see your car in the employee parking, because we enjoy your service so much."

  I froze, totally perplexed.

  She could not be serious.

  I honestly didn't know what to say, so I didn't say much of anything other than a mumbled "thank you" as I scurried back to my station. I caught a glimpse of her face as I walked away, she was still smiling sweetly, at me.

  My brain was wracked with confusion, and expletives. Lots of expletives. I whispered frantically to another waitress, "table C3 said I'm a good server."

  Puzzled, my coworker raised her eyebrows at me and said, "you must have REALLY pissed this one off. If you don't get a tip from her, you can share A5's with me."

  Even my coworker knew that this woman must be sarcastic, and probably plotting to shank me in the parking lot after work. I tried to keep my distance from that side of the room, totally under-serving half of my customers in the process. Finally, the "nice" woman and her son made their way to the cash register to pay, and then began walking out the door. The woman turned her head to smile at me again, and even waved. 

  Not only did she leave me a 30% tip, but she wasn't waiting in the parking lot for me with a shiv. She also didn't call the manager later to complain about me. She just came to my store, was kind to me, then left. 


  I feel like this situation says a lot more about me than it does her. For starters, when did I begin assuming that everyone was out to get me? Who am I to have it set in my mind that she was a hateful person? 

  I shook the event off until I got home that evening and received my email Bible study for the day. 

Matthew 13: 14-15 

Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

  I have hardened my heart towards other people in a method of self defense. 

  It's quite common actually. Most of us do this when we've been hurt one too many times. But Jesus warns us here that having hardened hearts leads us to a lack of understanding. It makes us cold and unresponsive. 

  But how scary is it to walk around with your heart on your sleeve, exposed to pain and damage? I read again: 

  "...lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them."

He heals us. 

  No matter how many times people have been cruel to us, no matter what heartache we have experienced, we have been promised healing. Which makes hardening of our hearts a very blasphemous type of sin, because we are effectively telling God that he isn't capable of healing our hearts when others hurt us. So we close ourselves up, and put chain link fences up around our souls. We keep others at an arms length and pre-determine their intentions, and in the process do the same thing to Him. 

  I mentioned before how common this is, but the longer I think on this the further reaching I believe it's effects are. 

If a girl in Junior High is kind to others without discretion, she is labeled "fake" by her peers.
If a man in college is soft spoken and loving, his masculinity and orientation are questioned.
If a woman gives a compliment to a man who is not her husband, gossip flies about that she is an adulterer. 
Etc. Etc. Etc. Being nice isn't normal, being cold and keeping others at a distance is normal. 

Being nice is weird. 

No comments:

Post a Comment