Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 16, 2012


I hate to admit it but Mother Teresa may be right


            Some folks may disagree but I think I have a rather positive disposition. I try hard not to behave like a grumpy old man. I like people. I want people to like me. And I am quite certain that people do not enjoy negative people. So I make an effort to smile and be pleasant in my interaction with other people.

            However in our increasingly impersonal society “being pleasant” is not a high priority for some people. Therein is my problem. It frustrates me when my kind words are rebuffed with a gruff reply. But what bothers me even more is that I often allow an apathetic reply to trigger a similar response from me.

            My wife tries to help me. She says, “You should accept the world like it is. People don’t owe you a smile. Stop expecting people to react the way you think they should. Just accept people the way they are and move on.” She is right. I know it. But I just can’t get over wanting people to be nice and friendly.

            I remind myself that I cannot control how other people act. I only have control of my actions and reactions. That is true. Still I have this nagging desire for people to be agreeable and kind.

            I even believe I have a right to expect salespeople in the stores to be pleasant. Am I expecting too much? I don’t think so. Here’s the way I see it. Stores cannot exist without customers. I am a customer. I walk into a store with money. The salesclerk will not have a job unless customers like me spend money. Surely the people who need my money will offer me a warm and friendly greeting.

            Guess what? The pleasant welcome is frequently not offered. Just today I walked into one of the popular big chain drugstores. Going to the pharmacy counter I handed a woman my prescription. No smile. No pleasant words. Just the blunt statement: “You don’t bring that here; take it the drop-off counter.” She pointed in that direction with a look that seemed to say, “Over there stupid!”

            The woman at the drop-off counter was no improvement. No hello. No how are you. Without saying a word or looking me in the eyes she simply held out her hand. After giving her the paper I asked her long I might have to wait. She said dryly, “Probably 20 minutes.”

            After 20 minutes I was back at the first counter. Still no friendly smile from the “no nonsense” clerk. No sign that she was pleased that I was spending $110 for the medicine. If anything she seemed irritated that she had to explain their routine of having customers sign for the receipt of the medicine. Holding the bag of medicine in her hand she asked me to prove my identity before handing the bag to me. It was as though she was making sure I was not a gangster stealing someone’s medicine.

            When the transaction was completed she said without any feeling, and without looking at me, “Have a nice day.” I managed a quiet “You too” as I walked away, nursing my wounded feelings. I was thinking, “Lord, help me stay well so I won’t have to come back here anytime soon.”

            There is something wrong with that scene in the drugstore. A customer spending money to help make a business successful ought to be able to walk away feeling appreciated. Am I wrong to think somebody should have let me know they were glad I chose to spend my money in their store?

            When I encounter the impersonal and sometimes unfriendly attitudes I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the unpleasant clerk’s husband had beaten her the night before, or perhaps she was suffering from hemorrhoids. Maybe there was a sick child at home. Pain and trouble do rob us of our joy so I need to remember that when I fault someone for not being pleasant.

            My greatest concern is actually not with the attitudes of others but with my own. It bothers me that I am so quick to lose my own smile, and my own pleasant disposition, when I run into someone who is unfriendly and uncaring. That is where the challenge is for me – to maintain a cheerful attitude and not allow an unpleasant person to rob me of my congenial spirit.

            Mother Teresa may have been right. She said the whole thing is between me and God, not between me and the unpleasant people. Here are her penetrating words:

            People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

            If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

            If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.

            If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

            The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

            Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

            For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.

            It was never between you and them anyway.

I hate to admit it but the dear Mother’s words nail me every time I read them. I believe she was right. And I know the more I follow her advice the less unpleasant faces will frustrate me. Lord, help me! + + +