I’ve always had a pretty bad case of mall fever. I like the hustle and bustle, the noise, and the smells (especially at the cookie and cinnamon roll shops). Every year around this time, I think back to how much I enjoyed working at the mall through my college and seminary days.
I worked in several areas, primarily men’s furnishings and customer service. I really liked getting to help customers create a well-coordinated outfit. During the Christmas season, it was a bit more difficult because the people doing the shopping rarely knew the precise tastes and sizes of the intended recipients. . . so that was quite challenging.
The thing I liked most about my time in retail sales was the vast array of people I had the opportunity to meet. I had a chance to interact with them in a way that helped or hindered their overall shopping experience, and I took that role seriously.
People-watching has always been a favorite pasttime of mine, and there’s no better place to engage that passion than a shopping mall at Christmastime. I can learn so much about people by seeing which stores they shop, which foods they enjoy, and how they interact with others — family, friends, and strangers alike.
One thing I’ve noticed is that we frequently treat complete strangers a lot better than we treat our family members. (And we wonder why those holiday get-togethers can be stressful!) I think the main reason is that we feel our family members have to put up with us, regardless of our words and actions. Since it’s not quite the same with people we don’t know, I think we tend to try a little harder to get along.
I guess I enjoy watching people so much during the holiday season because they are typically busy, hurried, and stressed-out. If you’ve ever taken one of those personality inventories, you’re usually given a score or type based on how you are normally and how you are under stress. The two can be very different!
This season I encourage you to do a self-evaluation of sorts. Here are a few questions to help get your thoughts going:
- How did I treat my family members yesterday?
- How did I treat strangers with whom I had interaction? (i.e., the post office clerk, the grocery store employee, the guy who took/filled your order at Starbucks)
- How did I treat people as I drove around town? Was I short-tempered, hostile, or aggressive?
- How did I treat people in the crowded parking lot? Did I rush to take the last spot, even though another person had claimed it?
- What did the expression on my face tell people about me? Did they learn that I’m basically a nice person with a good heart — or a force to be reckoned with?
- Did my words bring grace to those who heard me? Or, did they add to the chaos of the moment?
- Are you the kind of person you’d like to meet on a regular basis? Or, would you tend to avoid yourself at all costs?
- If this were my last day on earth, would I be content with how I lived today?
Let me make a point for emphasis: this is a self–evaluation. It is not a tool to print out and give to the edgy postal worker, the snooty boutique owner, or the seemingly mute cashier at McDonald’s! This is about you.
Hopefully you were able to answer all those questions in a way that was pleasing to yourself — and that honestly reflected the reality of your inner beauty. But, if you’re anything like me, you may have discovered some areas that could use a tune-up.
Be of good cheer! Every day is a new day to practice being the person you hope to become. Don’t put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today. Self-improvement goals do not have to wait for the new year.
Make today count!
(By the way, this is such a good exercise to help you prepare for those delightful family members who you’ll get to see shortly! I’m sure you can hardly wait. 😀 )