Who Cares?

You may be fortunate enough to remember a time when family stuck together through thick and thin; a time where community was strong, and people went out of their way to help you out of a jam or simply did something to make your day a little brighter. I grew up in such a time. Community and family were constants in life. You could count on the grocer adding a treat to the cart, (as a kid I loved those bouquets of lollipops that were in bins at the check-out – red was my favorite flavor) or the neighbor making a pitcher of lemonade and fresh-baked cookies and asking you over just to share, or family stepping up whether or not you spent time with each other, whether or not you actually liked each other, to help you when you were hurting or afraid. Apologies for bad behavior were common, gratitude a way of life, and you could definitely count on family and friends to be there no matter what.

Today, as my awareness level increases I see a world of indifference around me. One where people show no interest, concern or caring. Maybe it’s been there all along and I’ve had rose-colored glasses on, or I’ve become more and more jaded about how the world operates, or perhaps my attitude is one of indifference and that shades all my encounters. I’m not certain that’s it. I’m not indifferent, at least not 24-7. I do go out of my way to help others. I give people money even when I could really use the cash to cover a bill, and don’t expect it back. I vote for people I barely know when they ask me to support them in a competition. I send notes to friends from time to time to tell them I love them and miss them. I say thank you and please more often than not. I offer to clean out someone’s closet or shovel their driveway. I open doors for women and men. I’ll even risk it all to make someone else’s existence on this earth easier. Wow, I sound saintly, don’t’ I? (more on the saint thing later on)

You can see the indifference all around you if you pay attention. I walk a lot and pass people, many of whom don’t smile or a say a cheery hello. You nod your head, smile, or say hi and more often than not there is no response. Now take a look at my photo – I’m not someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, so what’s that all about?

Not too long ago I was in a deli grabbing some coffee, which I badly needed, and a snack for my partner and myself. I had $6 in cash on me. The clerk informed me it wasn’t enough. As I handed her my debit card, she told me their establishment didn’t take plastic. I stood for a moment contemplating how I found myself at a place that didn’t take anything but cash and do they declare it all on their taxes, and then asked her to take off the coffee so the bill would be in line with the amount of money I had to give her. She did and as I turned around to take the items to the table, there right in front of me, not two feet from the counter was an ATM machine! Seriously. The clerk had just blankly looked at me, when I said I didn’t have enough cash to cover the check and I was surprised they didn’t take debit cads, yet took the time to remove the coffee from my bill but not one word was said to me about the cash machine behind me. Her indifference to the situation was mind-boggling. How could she have not suggested the ATM? Her attitude came across loud and clear – who cares?

I could carry on and regale you with more examples of indifference and bet you can think of several, however this is about shifting awareness – mine, yours, and hopefully in turn we can influence other people to show interest, care and consider others instead of just themselves. I started to think about how great it would be if people would offer to help, go that extra mile to make the day more pleasant, the stay more enjoyable, the experience in a restaurant more relaxing. How amazing would it be if people actually considered others for a moment when they began a rant, were rude, obnoxious, mean, made a choice that caused other people heartache, walked by with a scowl on their face, grumbled through a brief encounter with a person, spewed negative statements on their social media pages or over the dining table.

I’m attempting to simply ignore the, ‘it’s all about me’ crowd, the ‘I don’t give a darn’ groupies, the ‘misery loves company’ gang and the ones who look at you with disdain and/or indifference. It’s not exactly easy as these descriptors are pervasive in our culture today however, I’m bound and determined to be one of the catalysts for change to a more pleasant way of meeting, greeting and overall dealing with other people.

Back to being a saint – I’m certainly no saint when it comes to these ways of being, so it’s been interesting to be observant of what goes on in my communication with others. When I’m in a bad, poor me mood – guess what? Moody people stick like glue to me. When I come across as happy, fun-loving, cheerful, kind and caring… life as I live it improves. You may want to try it. Be relaxed when you communicate with someone. Be the you that was there before all the crap happened to you and made you a ‘misery loves company’ card carrying member. A great place to begin practicing is with clerks and servers in stores and restaurants. I ordered food the other night just before the show as we had been on the road all day, and were tired, sore and hungry. It was about an hour and 15 minutes before the show so I chose Chinese as I figured it’d be quick. The clerk told me it would be over an hour before we got our food. Instead of fighting with her and making some snide comments about slow service and the like, I simply said in a light tone,  “oh too bad… I hope my partner leaves me something as I’ll have to eat mine later as I have a meeting to attend in just over an hour”, then thanked her and hung up. Ten minutes later there was a knock on the door and a delivery person was standing there with our food piping hot. I was so totally impressed, I picked up the phone and rang her back and thanked her.

Another time, I was at a hotel after a long days driving and loaded for bear with luggage. I went up to the hotel clerk and asked if there was a room on the lower floor as we had a ton of baggage to load into the room. No, she didn’t, so I went outside to break the news to my partner who was going to have to carry all the bags upstairs as I had pulled a muscle in my back that morning loading the car and was pretty much useless. He was too tired to care so I went back in and said we’d take a room on the second floor. She looked over at me and said well I do have one room left on the first floor close to the door, so it would make things easier for you. Oh and by the way “I’ve gone ahead and added free breakfast for you both in the morning”. Beyond impressed.

It’s people like that who need to be beacons for others to model their behavior on. I bet those gestures make them feel great – a feeling of contribution, satisfaction and community. I know that’s how I feel when I help out or am cheerful. You may try this yourself and see how by simply changing your attitude toward a situation or person, shifts others to do the same. It may not work all the time, I’m still waiting on some folks to make the shift in my life and apologize for poor judgment or bad behavior and I would guess people are waiting on me to do the same, but the more you practice, the more people you touch with a sense of community and family, and the more we may find our word shifting from one of indifference to one we feel connected to. Who cares? We do!

Siobhan Shaw, Co-host/ Producer , The Attitude Shift

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