This is a crazy and chaotic time of year for many of us. We have presents to buy, shipments to make, and year-end projects to finish. In other words, this stressful time of year can also bring out the worst in people.
Those of us who are usually generous and kind might be tempted to cut someone off to get in front at a long line at a cash register or service desk. We might drive aggressively to snag that last parking space in the lot. Or we might raise our voices to vent our frustration when the store is sold out of that last gift we needed to make Christmas “complete.”
Luckily, we all have a superpower. Yes, you—sitting there, reading this on your screen—have a superpower. Really. *smile*
Don’t believe me? Has a stranger ever given you a smile or a kind word at just the right time when you needed it most? That’s probably happened to all of us.
That stranger had the power to affect us, and we likewise have the power to affect others. We have the power to make someone else’s day better. Or at the very least, we have the power to provide a bright spot in their otherwise crappy day.
We have this superpower every day, but it’s especially important to wield our power during this time of year, when the lines and the rushing around and the deadlines can make even the best of us a little crazy(er).
For those of us who enjoy the introverted, work-by-ourselves nature of writing, this time of year can also mean that we’re out in the world more often than usual. *raises hand* That means we’re having to deal with others just when we’re all stressed and short on time.
Year round, whenever I deal with customer service people in “the real world”—whether a cashier at a grocery or a clerk in a department store—I always try to share a smile and friendly greeting, even though I’m introverted. Those who work retail have a difficult job and often face grumpy customers who don’t see them as people. My smile and outgoing interaction might be the only good moment in their crappy day.
My attitude goes double during this time of year, when there are a lot of people—who all might be at their worst—for them to deal with. We’ve all seen the headlines of Black Friday stampedes and the resultant injuries and deaths. But even if we discount those bizarre occurrences, we have to admit that many situations during this time of year are one temper tantrum away from a stress explosion.
I was reminded of this superpower we all have when I was out at a store last week. I was waiting to be helped when a customer yelled at a saleswoman for several minutes about something she couldn’t control or change. After he left, she turned away from the counter. Her shoulders shook, and she swiped below her eyes.
I stepped to the corner of the counter, held open my arms, and whispered. “Do you need a hug?”
She choked out a sob and nodded, and then she cried in my arms. I held her and told her that it wasn’t her fault and that she’d handled that situation the best she could.
From my perspective, I didn’t do anything special. I mean, it was just a hug and kind word. That’s something any one of us could have done.
But at the right time, at the right place, that “little thing” can have a big effect on someone else. We might never even know how much we affect others with our actions.
At the wrong time, an unkind word can ruin a day. But at the right time, a kind word can make everything better.
That’s a superpower—a superpower we all have. And as writers, we should be extra aware of our power. After all, many of us try to affect others with merely our written words. So we should recognize how much power we have in our spoken words and actions too.
I realized how important this power is after I posted about this incident on Facebook last week:
“So far this Christmas season, I’ve comforted a shaking, tearing-up saleswoman who’d just been unfairly berated by a customer. I asked if she needed a hug, and she nodded and sobbed in my arms for 5 minutes. … Then during today’s shopping trip, I found (and returned) a woman’s lost diamond wedding ring.”
Far, far, too many people gave me kudos for doing something special. That certainly wasn’t my intention, and in fact, that reaction made me sad. I don’t want to be singled out—and not just because I’m far from perfect. More importantly, what I did shouldn’t be uncommon.
Even the lost wedding ring was just a case of me being in the right place at the right time to hear a ping on the store’s flooring. Instead of ignoring the sound, I found the ring and returned it to the woman beside me who didn’t realize she’d dropped it while trying on jewelry. Again, no big deal.
But the fact so many saw my actions as unusual just makes my point stronger. Any little thing we do is more significant. We have more power to affect others than we think.
We know this. If we didn’t think we could affect others, many of us would write just for ourselves and not worry about readers at all. But we do hope our written words affect others. And in the same way, our in-person words or actions do affect others as well.
Maybe those of us who write can lead the way to making kindness a little less unusual:
- We’re often more observant of other people, as we watch for story or character ideas, and we might notice when someone needs that kind word or deed.
- We understand how we can influence others with our words.
- We know how cause and effect works in our stories, and real life works the same way.
Something as simple as our smile or kind word might make the difference in how others interact with their families when they get home from work. Which might then affect how their families treat their neighbors. And so on. So maybe if we use our superpower for good, we can affect the world. *smile* And *hugs* to everyone!
Has a kind word or deed from a stranger ever really affected you or stuck with you? Do you think the stress of this time of year can bring out the worst in others? Have you seen especially bad or good behaviors from others? Do you try to spread kindness to others? Do you have suggestions for what we can do?Pin It