Advocate, bipolar, coffee shops, compassion, customer service, dignity, homeless, homelessness, hope, inspiration, invisible, mental health, mental illness, mentally ill, psychiatry, psychology, respect, restaurants, schizophrenia], shopping, writing
My husband and I walked into a big box store because we were looking for a replacement band for his watch. We found the area where they sell watches, but we didn’t see any bands. We walked to the electronics section where there were two women talking to each other behind the counter.
My husband approached the counter and although he was in full view of the clerk she continued her conversation with her colleague. She didn’t smile at my husband; she didn’t say, “I’ll be right with you.” She made no signs to show that he was a person who was in need of her attention.
After a minute, the woman looked at my husband and said, “Yes?”
He asked if they had any watchbands in the stores and she said, “I don’t think so.”
This incident isn’t the first time I have gone into a store, and someone acted as if I was invisible. Not recognizing or addressing someone existence is an aggressive way to deal with people. It is like saying, “I don’t see you. You don’t matter. You have no importance.”
My husband’s step mother is from France and thinks that America has the best customer service. I disagree. Too frequently, I am treated or my husband or someone else in the store, are treated as if they do not exist. I have seen it at major coffee shops (the baristas are too busy with their conversation to take the order of someone waiting in line). I have seen it in department stores, and I have seen it in restaurants.
And these people are being paid to provide people with service and make them feel like coming back to the store, restaurant, or coffee shop.
These scenarios are the closest thing I know of to how the homeless must feel every time someone walks by them and avoids their eyes. All the people who don’t want to know that someone is suffering in the street. Even if we don’t intend to give them money (I don’t always have a small bill and at times I carry no money at all) we can say hi to them. We can wish them a good day. We can say to them with a few words and a smile, “You are human. I see you. You matter.”
I know this must be asking too much of some people because even when they are trained and paid and on the clock they can’t manage to treat others with that much dignity and respect.
I wish all people would learn to treat each other with dignity, importance, and respect. But if people in the service industry can’t muster that kind of response and we experience it, let it be a reminder to us; there are people in our lives living in unimaginable conditions that we can make visible by eye contact, words, and smiles.
I have made it my new hobby that when I am treated badly to check my behavior and make sure I’m not spreading that aggression and disrespect.
All of us can be healers, even if we have wounds; especially if we have wounds. It is a wrapping of the band aids on injuries – we are all first aid kits.