Every night I go to the same cafeteria with the same staff. When I started I noticed something: in the food industry it seems that there’s often a lot of disrespect between the servers and the customers. People order food and treat the servers like machines. There’s little to no personal exchange between them. Sometimes servers have a bad day and treat the customer poorly. Either way, there’s a lot of negative feelings.
There’s really no one to blame. You can’t have all the workers come in joyous every day. People have bad days, it’s human. Nor can you blame the customers. After a long day of working sometimes people just want to get food, eat, and sleep. Neither party is fully responsible for the poor atmosphere.
When I first arrived on night shift, I decided to try something. No matter what happened through the day, good or bad, I was going to put it behind me. I would walk into the cafeteria with a smile on my face and be eager to talk with everyone. I would fill myself with joy and share it with each person I came in contact with.
It sounds cheesy, or maybe fake, but something started happening. Everyday I would ask sincerely how the server was doing and talk about their day. It was simple conversation but it was sincere. When I asked them, I looked them in the eyes. I cared. There was a woman who was exceptionally grumpy, maybe she just came across as annoyed, but after asking her how she was doing everyday for a week, she started greeting me with a smile.
Then other servers started to follow suit. They started to ask me how I was doing, and now they cared. When they asked, they looked me in the eyes. Within a month, conversations would start and I would begin to relate to them. The negative environment I saw before seemed to disappear. Maybe it actually change or maybe my perspective changed.
Today I was getting food and the woman who looked grumpy talked to me. She said, “You smile a lot, that’s what I like about you. If something was wrong, nobody would ever know it.” I realized that each day I was putting my problems away. The problems I had at work vanished when I walked through those doors. All that followed were smiles and genuine care, if only for a few brief moments.
The reason I write this is because I want you to know that there are small impacts you can make on the world. I feel like I’ve somewhat changed the atmosphere. People seem more joyous and I feel more joyous. I now understand that I can set my problems down and I don’t have to carry them. I can talk with others, no matter who they are, and really hear them. That’s something different and deep.
In your life, try it. Find a simple, repetitive task that you do and fill it with joy. Maybe when you’re checking out at the store you could smile or talk more. Maybe start saying lame jokes. It doesn’t matter what you do. Start really focusing and living life. Really talk with others. Really connect. Make eye contact. Meet new people. Make new friends. As it has been said, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.