Monday, November 19, 2012

A lesson in humility...

   I heard something the other day in an old time radio show, "there is always time for manners!" We often get so caught up in the daily hustle that it's easy to forget how to interact properly with others. Everyone has feelings, desires, goals, aspirations, dreams... too many of them go unfulfilled but still it is no excuse to let that harden us or treat others as if they are not there. I had a reminder of this at a most unlikely place.

On my way to pick up the children from school I noticed the van was low on gas, so I headed to the hilltop gas station. I had just woken up (I love working nights, but leaves me but five hours of sleep a day if I'm lucky), and did not feel particularly cheerful or awake... as I pulled over to the gas pump I rolled my window down and waited for the attendant. The attendant, an older Indian fellow that used to live in the same apartment complex we did many years ago, came to the window and said "Hi, how are you?"

Honestly, I wasn't paying any attention to what he said, even who he was. I answered his polite inquiry with "twenty regular, cash." Most days that is probably the only words that pass between anyone and a gas attendant at a service station... no recognition of the person at the pump, of the individual that for all purposes we barely find worthy acknowledging.

The gas attendant retorted in a dignified tone "I asked, how are you? Not how much gas you want."

That reply made me feel quite ashamed... something so simple yet quite profound, and it took what most people might think of as a veritable "non-person". How am I any better than anyone to act so callous and uncaring? To forget the basic dignity of any person is an easy path to alienating ourselves from empathy towards others, and is the first step to the thought "us versus them". I apologized for my rudeness, and chatted with him while the gas was pumped about the people still in the complex, persons that had moved out, our families... I thanked him for his kindness, and went on my way.

You can learn from anyone; every one has things to teach, if we keep ourselves open to accepting the lessons with a humble heart. Something to think about next time you start becoming irate over someone working a register at a long shopping line, or start talking about what YOU want before hearing what another person is saying.

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