What Ever Happened to the Golden Rule, Anyway?
I Was Hangry
On a recent RV trip across a major US interstate highway, a billboard for a gas station caught our eye. It had a fast food restaurant on site that happened to be a favorite of ours, and our stomachs had just begun to rumble a few miles earlier. This stop was only about thirty miles ahead, and we would also need more fuel by then. Perfect!
We eagerly awaited the exit, counting down those miles and seeing a few more billboards along the way that made our mouths water in anticipation. We finally arrived and began our gas stop routine—I went in to pay for a fill up (paying at the pump with a 90-gallon tank just doesn’t work well!), while my husband used the restroom. Then I took the dog out while he pumped the diesel. Then we found a place to park and headed in to the store and restaurant.
As we arrived at the door, a worker was locking it. I wondered what was going on. She pointed at the tiny placard with the store hours. They closed at 8 pm. I looked down at my watch—8:02.
“What?!” I asked incredulously. “They close this early?!” Being early June, it was still bright daylight outside. She let us in and said she didn’t know if they were still serving food at the restaurant but we could give it a try. Since the nearest services were at least an hour away, it looked like we would be out of luck. And hungry.
As I walked toward the counter, I was still in disbelief. Why would they close so early on a major interstate during travel season? It didn’t make any sense. I rushed right up and told the worker there what I thought of their early hours, in not such a nice way. Not one of their advertisements had mentioned they weren’t open 24 hours, like similar gas stations. And why didn’t they at least let us know they were about to close when we paid for the fuel?! Think of all the business they were losing! As soon as it came out of my mouth, I regretted saying it. But, as my teenage daughter used to say, I guess I was “hangry”.
They Fed Us Anyway
Despite my bad manners, they took our order anyway and began making our food. While we waited, my mom, who was traveling with us, asked another worker why they have such early hours. She replied that they are a family-owned business and like to give their workers time with their families.
Now I really felt like a heel.
As I stood there waiting for my food, I began thinking back to those days in high school when I worked at a fast food place. Sometimes people would come in right at closing, as we were trying to clean up, and order a meal. It was frustrating. We just wanted to get home. But like these people, we never complained at the customer. We just served them cordially and went about our work.
And I had been rude to them.
I had been in such a hurry to get my food, I hadn’t even taken two seconds to think about what getting my needs met would mean for these workers. Given the remote location of this place, they probably still had a lengthy drive home, after cleaning up from our last-minute order. They’d be lucky to have any family time at all.
My Heart Was Softened
I couldn’t stand it anymore. I went up to the cashier that had taken our order, and I apologized for my rude remarks. Though I did my best to be pleasant and thankful in the few minutes we had left together, the thoughts of what I had said wouldn’t leave my mind. That’s the problem with words—once they’re out there, it’s hard to get them back.
Those words stayed in my head the next few days. I felt sick in my stomach that I had spoken to someone like that—someone who was there to serve me and technically didn’t have to. Having been on the receiving end many times before, I knew exactly how that felt. I wondered, why have we become this way in our culture? Why is it that when things aren’t perfectly how we want them, our default reaction is to be inconsiderate or offensive? It’s almost as if it’s become accepted behavior. It’s so normal to us that it’s our go-to procedure, and sometimes we don’t even know we’re doing it. Or if we do, we make excuses for our rudeness or blame the other person.
Let’s Make a Change
I’d like to see that change, and I’m starting with me. What if we lived in a world where, instead of automatically assuming the other guy is out to get us, we assume he is a person with feelings and needs, too? What if we were part of a culture where we take time to think before letting words spew out of our mouths? I’d like for the common practice to be the spreading of goodwill rather than indignation.
It’s a simple rule we should have learned in kindergarten: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s not difficult. We just put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and determine how we would want to be treated. And then we do it. Imagine the possibilities we could reach in society if we all started following this practice. Think of the conflicts we could avoid!
I am pledging right here and now to do a better job of this with every person I meet, and I invite everyone to join me. Let’s make this a “thing”. How about, instead of always looking out for ourselves, with hashtags and walkouts, we start looking out for the other guy? Then, by everyone looking out for everyone else, the needs of all people get met, and we all win. We don’t need a movement. Let’s just do it.