Some time back I wrote about my Aunt that I didn’t reach out to before she passed away. For some reason this week she was on my mind and I was remembering a story of something that happened on one of my trips when she was driving with me for work because I could not drive.
To understand the story you, have to understand my aunt. She was very unique, especially in her stature. She was very short (4’9″) and very large. For her that was a unique part of her personality, but also something that immediately stood out when we were out in public. I often wondered how she dealt with the stares and unkindness of people, but she didn’t seem to care because life to her was just that, life.
On one particular trip in the north of Florida, we decided that we were going to stop at a McDonalds for some lunch. The restaurant wasn’t too busy, but there were a few people ahead of us in line. As we stood in line, I began to notice the workers behind the counter starting to point at her and laugh. One of the workers went and got another worker and they just stood there pointing, staring and rather enjoying themselves. I am not sure if they thought we were blind or we just didn’t care, but they were oblivious to the damage they were doing. The more I watched them the more angry I got until finally it was our turn at the counter.
The minute we walked up to the counter the workers put their serious faces back on and became the workers they were supposed to be. The worker behind the register said to us, “may I help you?” I looked her square in the eyes and said, “no you may not, but your manager can.” As you can imagine she was a bit taken back by my response, yet sheepishly wandered off to get the manager.
As the manager came to the register to take our order, I could see the workers standing off to the back out of the corner of my eye. I explained to him what happened and told him that I was completely disgusted in how the restaurant treated their patrons. I told him that they must see all types of people in their restaurant every day and I wondered if others had suffered a similar experience like we had. He of course apologized, offered to pay for our meal and we went over to our table to eat our lunch.
A couple minutes after we sat down I looked up and saw the two workers who attempted to wait on us coming over to our table. They walked up to the table shaking and proceeded to apologize directly to my Aunt for their behavior. They told her how very sorry they were and promised to be more respectful of people. We thanked them, looked at each other in amazement and continued on to finish our lunch.
The manager that day taught those workers a very valuable lesson. He could have just apologized for them and let the whole incident pass, but he used it as a teaching moment that I am sure those workers would not soon forget. That day they learned that it is never OK to be rude to people because of their appearance, size or stature. They learned that there are consequences for your actions and I am sure that apologizing was not an experience that they soon wanted to have to go through again. Next time we find ourselves in a similar situation, think of my Aunt and the impact that she had on the world on that one day long ago.
Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles today.