November 29, 2016

PSA: Please Don't Be A Jerk This Christmas

Public Service Announcement

1) The holiday season is here!
2) Please don't be a jerk.
I love this time of year. I have been listening to Christmas music since October, and my family already put up all three of our Christmas trees before Thanksgiving. I also adore giving gifts, so this season is naturally one of my favorites. But I would like to offer my two cents about attitudes and actions during November-December...and at all times, really.  
Currently, I do not work in retail, so I speak only from a customer service standpoint. I have posted before about my job in the food service industry (check out the "Food for Thought" tab if you would like to read more), in which I make the case that we (as a collective society) subconsciously degrade those in the service industry - not out of spite, but out of ignorance.
The first year I worked during the holidays, I noticed a clear shift in my customer's attitudes and actions beginning the day after Thanksgiving and lasting until shortly after New Year's. I discovered that people were noticeably more impatient and unkind. It's understandable - Christmas has become a very stressful holiday in our materialistic and individualistic society. We feel pressured to give the same kinds of gifts to everyone so that no one feels left out, but we also feel that we must give personal, meaningful gifts. We want to buy nice things for people, but finances are tight. We want to stop and enjoy the quietness of Christmas, but we are too busy trying to make everything perfect to realize what we are missing. I get it: Christmas is stressful. However, today I would like to make the case that this is our chance as Christians to be a light in a very me-focused world.

* * *

We, the Service Industry, are part of what brings you the Christmas experience you desire. We are the ones who make it possible for you to give gifts to your loved ones. Please don't take out your stress on us.

In job orientation, I was taught about "kick-the-dog" syndrome: a man has a horrible day at work, drives home, and kicks the dog. The dog didn't do anything wrong - the man simply took out his frustration and anger on the dog. This was taught to excuse customer behavior  I was told to "not to take it personally" when customers yell or shout at us. The illustration is true - most customers that shout at me or complain about their order is not because they hate me or want me to fail. They are most likely having a bad day, and are taking their frustrations out on me. However, me realizing that "it's not personal" doesn't fix the problem; it's simply a band-aid to make myself feel better. The actual problem is one that no one wants to admit: "Kick-the-dog" syndrome is actually wrong.

Parents are not allowed to take out their anger on their children, teachers are not allowed to take out their anger on their students, and adults are not allowed to take out their anger on other adults, so why should it be any different for the food/retail industries?

Please understand that we are stressed too. We are also trying to find the right gifts for everyone and to enjoy the holiday season. We're human, and we make mistakes too. Please be patient with us. 
Stop, take your time, and enjoy the season. Enjoy the scent of pine needles and the excitement of children. Spend some time with your family. Drive slowly through your neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights instead of rushing off to somewhere else. Then take a moment, pause, and remember what Christmas is about. It's not about the gifts, the tree, the decorations, or even the "feeling" of Christmas. It's about God doing the most loving thing He could ever do - sending a Savior for all the world.

* * *
This Christmas, please don't be a jerk. Don't kick the figurative dog by taking out your anxiety and frustration on a random highschooler who happens to be working a cash register in December, or lose your temper with a flustered middle-aged woman who can't seem to answer your questions. That's not how we show God's love. That's not how they will know that God has come to live in you.  
This Christmas, take a little time to be a little cheerier and a little kinder. This is your chance, in this season of stress, to be a light - to show that you have true love from God and real hope from His Son. Before you lose your temper, roll your eyes, or complain, stop and remember that this is your chance: be a light instead of another exasperated complainer. Be kindness instead of rudeness. Be love instead of frustration. Be a true Christmas spirit instead of just another stressed-out customer.

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