Sometimes in this life we have unexpected, unpleasant encounters with strangers who are quick to judge us based only on their first impressions of us. I was 19 when I first became a mother, and I remember walking into Kmart one afternoon with my baby in my arms. All of a sudden the door greeter, who was an older gentleman, loudly exclaimed something like, “There goes another unwed teen with a baby!” As I quickened my pace to move further into the store, my spunky cousin who happened to be with me turned around and said, “I’ll have you know she’s married, not that it’s any of your business!”
I will never forget a most unpleasant experience with a woman in Costco many years ago. I was shopping with a 7-year old daughter a 2-year old son. My 2-year old was behaving like a typical 2-year old. He was refusing to sit in the cart and he was refusing to hold my hand. He wanted to run around and throw things off the shelves. Since I could not allow him to do that, I got down on my knees so I could be at his level and I placed both of my hands on his little shoulders. I looked him in the eye and was just about to give him the firm choice of sitting in the cart or holding my hand, when this woman came out of nowhere, got in my face (she actually did get right in my face) and loudly accused me of abusing my child! Stunned, I stood up to face her. Where was this coming from? I was simply being a typical mother to my typical toddler. As she continued her rant, and as other shoppers stopped and stared at us, tears filled my eyes. I felt humiliated. All I wanted to do was get out of there. I picked up my son, took hold of my daughter’s hand, and walked out, leaving our half-filled cart behind us. I remember turning back once, tears streaming down my face to look back at a stranger, so quick to judge me. She had a look of satisfaction on her face. I had to sit in our car for several minutes to compose myself before I could drive home and it was several weeks later before I mustered the courage to shop at that Costco again.
Yesterday, my daughter had an unpleasant encounter with the owner of a little fudge shop in our town. I am sharing her story with her permission, through a letter to the owner which will never be mailed nor delivered.
Dear Fudge Shop Owner,
Yesterday, a sweet and honest 19-year old girl walked into your family business on main street, introduced herself and began to sincerely apologize for missing her job interview with you, only the day before. You immediately cut her off in the middle of her apology and promptly put her in her place. She humbly apologized again and left your shop, holding back tears until she made it to her car.
While I can appreciate that you were unhappy that she failed to show up to her scheduled interview with you, I wish you had given her a chance to explain what had happened. I would like to go back through the events- As soon as this girl learned there was a job opening, she dressed up and personally took a copy of her resume into your shop. I believe you were not there at the time so she left her resume with your associate. You must have looked over her resume and references and decided to give her an interview. You contacted her cell a couple of nights later. It was a Tuesday night, and this girl was in a class so she didn’t pick up. You left her your business number and said you would like to interview her on “Thursday afternoon”. I know because she still has that message on her cell phone.
On Wednesday morning, this girl returned your call and you told her to meet you at your shop on Thursday at 6:30. That was all you said. You did not specify AM or PM and in her innocent mind, she assumed you meant 6:30PM. Now she has learned the valuable lesson of clarifying, so thank you.
However, if you had been at your shop at 6:30PM, you would have seen that this girl was indeed prompt and ready for her interview. Imagine her dismay at discovering your shop locked tight and realizing her mistake. She felt awful about it, but as she only had your business number, she could not reach you that night. And the rest of the story is history. She had hoped that by appealing to you in person, that you would see she was sincere and it was a simple miscommunication. She had hoped for a second chance to interview.
I just want you to know that you are missing out working with an intelligent, honest, hard-working and yes, punctual young lady. The fact that she came to you in person right away, owning her mistake and offering you a heartfelt apology, says a lot about her character.
And I’m not sure how I’d sign it but it doesn’t matter.
As I comforted my daughter yesterday, I reminded her that sometimes people are quick to judge. I am sure I’ve been guilty of it myself, though certainly not with any mother in a store with a misbehaving child. ;) I’m sure my daughter, should she ever run her own business, would give a young college girl a second chance. Imagine how wonderful this world would be if everyone lived by The Golden Rule?
It was our Savior, Jesus Christ, who taught us The Golden Rule. Imagine a world where everyone followed His perfect example. The greeter in Kmart would have refrained from his quick judgement and might have complimented me instead on how sweet my baby was. The woman in Costco would have remembered when she was once in my situation and might have offered me a helping hand. The fudge shop owner would have respectfully listened to my daughter and might have given her a second chance to interview. We never know how an encounter with a stranger might affect their life for better or for worse. What if instead of going with our first impressions, we gave everyone the benefit of the doubt? What if we actually tried to make someone’s day better by offering them a smile or lending them a hand, or giving them a second chance?