Yesterday at work (as most of you know I am currently at lululemon athletica ) I struck up conversation with another guest that was looking at pants. I had all these stories in my head of how it could be - I always prepare myself for worst case scenario so I'm not thrown off and move into reaction, rather than responding. I guess you could say it's my little resilience ritual. I don't want to say that I was surprised when I was met with a pleasant response, because that would give off the idea that I have lost faith in humanity and assume the worst in everyone I meet, which is not the case at all, but I was caught slightly off guard. Anyhoo...
It started as a typical conversation. I asked him what he was looking for, and I helped him track down what he needed. And then we got started talking about hockey, and it turned into what seemed like a 20 minute conversation. Not to take away the importance of the words that were exchanged, but I've already forgotten the specifics of what was said. That's not what I'll remember, it's the feeling I was left with. It's that he made eye contact with me, he listened to what I was saying, he treated me like an equal - he saw me as another human being, not just as the random Asian girl at the yoga pants store who rang him up. I felt respected, I felt valued.
And as he left he said, "Happy Holidays!" which is seemingly insignificant, but put a huge smile on my face and easily was the highlight of my day. He didn't have to say it - we had said our goodbyes and he was nearly out the door, but he did. How just plain kind and lovely.
This got me thinking. How many times have I not seen the person standing in front of me - the barista, the server, the person bagging my groceries, the person sitting next to me at the coffee shop? So many times, unfortunately. We talked about this in yoga teacher training, the fact that we tend to reduce people to these labels that help us to categorize people, to make sense of them. But I've come to realize that in doing so we dehumanize them - we don't see them for who and what they truly are: another human being - with feelings, needs, desires, hopes, dreams, insecurities and so on and so forth. And it's not personal - actually, it's exactly the opposite, it's about as impersonal as it gets. I'm not saying this is necessarily good or bad, it's just something that deserves awareness.
Although I may not always be aware when I'm doing this myself, I certainly can pick up on when it's happening to me. And as anyone who has experienced it knows, it does not feel good. No, not at all. And I don't ever want to be the reason someone's good day turns sour, or questions their own worth, or has a bade taste in their mouth or a pit in their stomach (this is very I am/you are, but that's a whole other topic.) I want to be the person who leaves everyone that walks into my presence feeling a little lighter and happier than when they left.
Of course, this isn't a switch that I can just flip on or off. It's a practice. It's a conscious choice to choose empathy, compassion and above all else kindness - which for me, is not always my gut reaction. It's taking the time to respond rather than react. It's a shift from attitude to gratitude. It's the courageous decision to say, "I see you and I hear you." It's saying hell yes to connection. And these aren't always gut reactions for me, but they're choices that I am wholeheartedly ready, willing and committed to making.
Happy holidays, you guys. Namaste!