Reality Check: She Said “Thank You”!

On a recent shopping trip, I witnessed something so remarkable that it’s stuck with me for days. “What could that be?” you might ask.
The line-up to the young cashier’s till wasn’t very long, so it was easy to see what was going on. I noticed that the cashier said to her customer, “Thank you for leaving those heavy bottles in your cart.” It was a sensible acknowledgement of a sensible decision, and I didn’t think much about it.
The next customer came to the till.
The cashier said to her, “Thank you for placing those items like that; it makes it easier for me.” OK. It was nice of her to recognize that someone had made an effort to make her job easier.
I observed this a couple more times. When it was my turn, sure enough, the cashier was able to find something that I had done for which she could thank me. It was as if she had gotten up that morning (or perhaps every morning) and made a deliberate decision to say “thank you” to every person she interacted with that day. It was amazing.
If you were recounting this incident to a friend, what would you say? Would you view it positively or negatively? What would you conclude?
This brief glimpse of an interaction obviously made an impression on me. Here’s what I saw.
First, if we decide that we want to say thank you, we can always find a reason to do so. We might have to look hard, because opportunities to be thankful don’t always appear right in our faces. But if we look around through the lens of “thank you,” we can find a reason.
Next, it’s popular to adopt a negative perspective when we think about people who are not in our own demographic. For example, some seasoned citizens view young folks as irresponsible, lazy, and clueless about the real world. Negative stereotypes are enhanced by portrayals in movies, some news stories, discussions on social media, and so on.
Likewise, some young folks look at their elders as critical, pampered, and clueless about today’s real world. Again, negative stereotypes are enhanced and amplified by various sources.
When we look at “others,” people who are not like us in some way, from a starting point of negativity, we are likely to find reinforcements for our views. However, when we look from a different perspective, we do, in fact, see different things.
In this case, the young worker demonstrated that she is clearly not irresponsible, lazy or clueless. That one example contradicts the stereotype of “young people today….” All young people are not the same, nor are all elderly people the same. Nor are middle-aged people, or toddlers, and so on. Those characteristics over which we have no control, such as age, don’t define the characteristics which we can control, such as values, attitudes, knowledge.
Finally, what we do has an impact. We might believe that no one notices when we do something kind, when we say “thank you,” when we act without being acknowledged. But it does matter.
How do you think the cashier felt at the end of her day, after having thanked each of her customers? How do you think her customers felt, having been at the receiving end of a few seconds of gratitude? I can’t speak for the others, but I know I felt pretty good.
What do you think?

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