Why Words have Impact, so Choose Kindly.
For all of us, today ranks somewhere in the grand scheme of all of our thousands of days strung out together. Perhaps it is above average. Perhaps it is the BEST DAY of our life. Perhaps, we have spilled our coffee on our sweater en route to cashing in our winning lottery ticket. and SO WHAT, because it’s an awesome day.
And other days are not as great. We spilled the coffee, and now we have to go meet with our boss because we are behind on deadlines and man, our head is pounding and maybe we are coming down with the flu. It’s a different kind of day.
I recall my first day at work. My first day, ever. I was only 14 years old and my manager just explained the DOS coding system that Domino’s used to capture orders, where “L” stood for “Large Pizza” and “P” stood for “Pepperoni” and “S” for “Sausage” and “L” in the toppings column inexplicably stood for “Broccoli” since “B” was already taken for “Beef”. My whole job was to answer the phone, type in what the customer wanted, then hit send so it would pop up over at the pizza assembly line. I was still in ninth grade, and I hadn’t ever worked a day in my life and I barely understood the system when I answered the phone to a woman with a complicated order enough to feed a football team. As I bumbled along, “Ok, so that first pizza is… large? And…” I tried to slow down her rapid fire order as she’d scream “LARGE PEPPERONI MUSHROOM ONIONS SAUSAGE…” I was waving over my manager, but she kept going. “Please tell me again”, then to her husband, “Sorry, babe, I have to repeat myself. I’m talking to a f***ing moron.”
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
Though I bounced back from the initial sting, even then knowing “It’s my first day and I’m 14 and someone is saying this so loudly that they are obviously intending I hear?”, I never forgot.
And one’s first day of work, ever, may be a stressful, and even slightly fragile, day, it was far from my worst day.
A friend of mine who we shall call Lucy* (*not her real name) once worked abroad, where she spoke the local language that was not English, enjoyed the foreign surrounds, and played a host to a number of visitors over her three-year stint overseas. Her final visitors were her mother and her mother’s best friend, someone she herself had been close to over the years as he was a close friend of the family. And on this tragic visit, Lucy alone witnessed the family friend die swiftly, unexpectedly, and tragically before her eyes. We are no longer in the territory of fragile or stressful, for Lucy was now thrown from her perch as an untouchable, free spirited, woman in the world into the worst days of her life. Days after witnessing the death, dealing with international authorities, airlines and her mother (inconsolable and unable to stop loudly grieving to Lucy), as the sole bilingual traveler and friend of the departed, Lucy was given the task of extraditing the body on a 9-hour transatlantic flight.
She made it to the airline, was translating back and forth between airline staff and her mother, dealing with delayed flights and questions about what does one exactly do with a body, when a disgruntled, impatient airport dweller, also agitated about her delays, pushes through Lucy, loudly telling her to hurry it up.
Lucy lost it. What was a haze of trauma and grief suddenly snapped, and Lucy broke down in an airport, telling the pushy woman, “My FRIEND just DIED.”
Perhaps the woman learned her lesson. Perhaps, we can all understand that not everyday is a day when people can handle your short fuse or your aggressive attitude. Perhaps, you are having a bad day yourself, and think the world can bear the brunt of it.
But, please –
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
Consider that not everyone is on their way to cashing in their winning lottery ticket. While a number of people may quickly brush off their negative encounters, we all have fragility. Everyone, at some point, will have their worst day and perhaps they will run into you. Hopefully, your interactions leave the person feeling faith or support, or you may even go unnoticed. But be kind, because when someone is broken, it doesn’t take much to break them even more.