Not like “Ooohh baby, baby”, but in a way that means… “Little one, everything will be all right”. He says it even when I’ve managed to knock over a stack of orange sodas. Even if he’s just restocking the chicken salad. Even though I’m not at all little.
Our server at the local Panera called me Baby just this past weekend. And she’s probably ten years my junior. But I’ve been suffering with this ridiculous head cold. And by lunchtime Saturday, the pain and stuffiness must have shown on my face, because she said, “Baby, I hope you enjoy this meal.” And I have to admit, it comforted me more than the chicken soup I’d ordered.
I live in a community that feels small and where people often refer to one another as Baby or Honey or Sugar. I try not to use Sweetie for anyone over twelve. But I do things that might not be acceptable in other communities, whether large or small, urban or rural.
- I make eye contact and smile or say “Hello!”.
- I engage cashiers and drive-through tellers (“Has it been crazy today?” at the grocery store and “I like your new t-shirts” at McDonalds.)
- I thank the bus driver when he reaches my stop and the cleaning crew when I leave the office.
- I stop for pedestrians and provide directions to those who are lost.
Annoying, right? But folks usually respond favorably and in kind. Because we really aren’t strangers. Our lives have crossed paths. We’ve shared even the briefest of experiences. And who knows what the future may bring?
In truth, there are times when I’ve failed to be friendly or show the most basic respect. I regret these times when I’ve been unhappy about a situation and pass along that unhappiness… usually to someone on the other end of the phone, on the other side of a counter, someone who is trying to help and doesn’t deserve my wrath. CBS journalist Steve Hartman recently did a story about Mike the postman, from the Penn State Post Office in State College, PA. Mike spreads love through cheerfulness and compassion and genuinely impacts the lives of others by being nice. Can you believe it? What an amazing role model. Plus he gets his job done without any remorse.So on this day devoted to love, why not pledge to celebrate love in all its aspects, throughout the whole year? Let’s start by thanking the people who work hard to assist us every day, especially the many folks in fast food and customer service. It doesn’t need to be flamboyant. Just say “Thank you.”
And at the start of this Lenten season, instead of worrying about “giving up” something, why not add kindness to our daily routines? Compliment a stranger – “that’s a beautiful sweater” – and be patient with a friend. Tell someone if he has broccoli in his teeth or her skirt is riding up rather dangerously.
And share the love! Happy St. Valentine's Day.