Often times we make assumptions about why people are acting in a certain way. Sometimes all it takes is a question to find out what's really happening.
While standing in line to get a cup of coffee, I saw a tattooed, scraggly haired, earring wearing barista being rude to everyone in line. How can he be so mean to his customers, I thought to myself. He's in the "service" business...
Although my first reaction was judgmental, I wanted to look beyond what I was seeing. Did his demeanor really match his looks, or, was there a little bit more to this story?
When I got up to the counter, I asked, "You look upset, is something wrong?"
At first he glared at me. Most likely he was wondering why I had invaded his space. Then slowly, the barista's face morphed right before my eyes. Suddenly, he looked like a little boy who was afraid and alone.
"My mom is in the hospital. She's got cancer and I'm not sure if she's going to make it," he answered.
The barista looked down, willing himself not to look into my eyes. I thought that I saw a tear form at the corner of his eye. It was like the tear stains that leave a faint impression on a letter.
I told him that I cared. He looked at me and in the middle of all the energy that was happening in the book store, we held each others gaze for a few minutes. It felt surrealistic.
I ended up buying a card for his mom and writing my heart-felt sentiments on it. I handed it over to the barista and went on my way. It was a life-changing moment because I realized that so many times we get it wrong. We take things personally without realizing what another person is going through.
If only we took the time to check in with other people to see what is happening in their world! I believe that understanding is POWER!
A few weeks later I went back and saw the barista. He was a whole new person, smiling and helping everyone in line. When I got to the counter he quickly came over and gave me a hug. I found out that his mother loved the card and he was appreciative that someone cared! It made my heart feel a little fuller.
This experience reminds me that there is always a story behind a story. Just like a kaleidoscope, when we listen, we can create a different outcome.