To the kid bagging groceries and winning at life …
I see you.
Everyone does. But it’s the way you handle the way they see you that made me want to talk to your manager. He’s not surprised I praised you. He sees what I see: Patience, empathy, strength.
When others see you, they ask the same questions. How old are you? Are you old enough to work? What grade are you even in? I even heard … What do you want to be when you grow up?
I was parked behind a laptop in the cafe, writing remotely. In between nodding at chatty seniors and smiling at fetching moms, I’d see you accompany another customer to their car, pushing a cart of their groceries.
The questions didn’t cease. Neither did your hospitality. I heard others — and I’m sure you did, too — wonder out loud about your age and height. People get hung up on such things. It’s a broken record every person feels is brand new.
I stewed a little, I’ll be honest. People say dumb things. You’ve got your hands full! to parents of twins. Gee, you’re tall! To the tallest girl on my soccer team. Three girls? That must be awful! they say to me when they learn about my kids. Each time someone mentioned your height or youthful appearance, I bristled.
Then, I learned.
Because I watched you. I saw you do your job. More than that — I saw you act as a steward to the company. I heard you say it was your first day. How many of us can learn something from you, on day 4,295 on the jobs we work? Nearly all of us. When I listened and watched you conduct your day, I felt less vitriol, more pride. And I don’t even know your name.
Because you make the experience about them, without taking exception to their comments. I’m a sophomore in high school, I heard you say, then ask about their day. It’s my first day here, you answered, and gave your age, but without a wisp of sarcasm.
The hopeful part of me feels these people drove off with the memory of an engaging young man and top-of-the-line service. Because you made it about them. About empathy and about the job you’re there to do. No matter how exhausting the comments about you could become.
After I told your beaming managers how awesome you were, I saw you once more as I walked to my car. You were telling a woman to have a wonderful afternoon, and you didn’t see it, but she stopped midway in getting into her town car and smiled at you, and waved. She’ll remember you. Not for your height. For how high you are.
Keep on keeping on, son. It’s the strength of character and energy like yours that will make the most profound difference in our world. Glad to be on this planet with you.