Compliments are Addictive
I am normally a very shy, quiet, sometimes sad person. My family and friends all know this and accept it. It’s an effort for me to be more outgoing. Talking to strangers is especially hard, but since I retired from teaching, I seem to be desperate for human contact.
Recently on a day when I was feeling a little down, something came over me and my desire to talk to others got the best of my shyness. I stopped at the bank, pulled up to the drive-through window, and saw one of my favorite tellers. She is young, pretty, and energetic. She completed the transaction for me, and I found myself gushing, “Thank you. I love coming here. You are so happy and cheerful all the time. You really make my day!”
She smiled back at me, thanked me, and I pulled away. I am probably one of the few human beings alive today without an ATM card. I really just don’t want one. I know they are so much more convenient than having to write a check, but I worry I won’t remember to note it in my checkbook. I hate to admit it, but I also don’t use a debit card. Most people would wonder how I survive such antiquated financial choices. I still remember my parents using money orders before finally getting a checking account and then one credit card which they seldom used. It worked for them! Anyway, if I didn’t have to go to a bank directly, I wouldn’t have human contact with people who really seem to enjoy their jobs.
After the bank, I took my mother to the lab for some blood work. We didn’t have much time, since my mother had some tests scheduled at the hospital, and she had to fast for the blood work, so I was hoping to get her to a restaurant for some breakfast. The waiting room was almost empty and we sat down to wait. Then a man came in and the nurse/receptionist took him in right away. I was a little annoyed, and so when we were finally called, I said I wondered if we had been overlooked since someone had come in after we had but had been taken before us. The woman rather rudely and abruptly informed me that he had an appointment and we did not. She took my mother back to the lab and drew the blood without saying much to either one of us. Then I noticed she had on a cute smock designed with cats and dogs lying in hospital beds. I began a conversation.
“What a cute smock!” I said. “That must really cheer patients up.”
Suddenly she smiled and said, “We’re supposed to wear uniforms but we only get two, and by the end of the week I run out, so I bought a few cute smocks. I wish I could wear them all the time.”
“That would be great!” I said. Then she put the bandage on my mother’s arm and she escorted us to the door. I felt even better than I had before.
Next was breakfast. We stopped at a diner I knew my parents used to like. I had never been there, but my mother liked it. Who wouldn’t like a restaurant called Shirley’s?
We seated ourselves and I read the menu to my mother. She loves bacon and pancakes so she was excited to be there. I noticed that most of the people in there were senior citizens. An elderly man came in with a walker, took what I suspected was his usual seat, and after ordering, got up to go to the restroom. A few minutes after he returned to his seat, he got up again to go to the restroom. One of the waitresses stopped to talk to him. She obviously knew him. She told him to just rest a minute and let her know if he needed anything. He continued to just sit without eating.
As we got up to pay the bill, the waitress called over to him that his meal had been taken care of and she hoped he felt better. I commented to the waitress, “Your job involves more than just being a waitress, doesn’t it? You seem to take special care of your customers.” She smiled at me and agreed that she did many jobs in her line of work. We paid the bill and left.
It was only three brief encounters, only three moments of kindness on my part, but somehow those three moments made me feel better. This was a difficult day because my mother at age 89 was having health problems and had to endure several lengthy tests that morning, but I felt connected to other people, watching them at work as I had once worked. I know my teaching days were always easier on those rare occasions when I heard a few kind words of appreciation.
Complimenting others is a way to feel good at those times when you need a lift. Even when something goes wrong, I’ve discovered I can get satisfaction when I am pleasant instead of angry. One of my sister’s greatest traits was her ability to find humor and joy in those moments that were life’s greatest challenges. More and more often now I find myself trying to view life the way she would have, and it comforts me.