Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Say It Like You Mean It

This is one of those times I'm sharing a personal story... something God showed me, as opposed to a book. But it does take place in library!

I worked this past Saturday. Saturdays have become the most insane day in the library. It's non-stop. It's also the day we're the most understaffed. We normally have a minimum of four staff on a Saturday, but that should be four circulation people. This past Saturday, when I had three back-to-back teen programs and was in the program room until 1:00, I was being counted as one of those four people working. There were frustrated patrons, there was a voices-raised altercation between two of my coworkers, we never had less than five people waiting to be checked out (often more) and a constant stream of books to check in, patrons needing reference help, and there were multiple times that a book had gone back on the shelf without being checked in... just slightly embarrassing. I didn't even have time to take a lunch break.

It would have been so easy to follow the crowd and be equally short-tempered with coworkers and patrons, giving in to the frustration of it all, or I could choose to fight the tide. And the crazy thing is... it worked! As I was efficiently moving patrons through the line or assisting them, I made an extra effort to smile at them, make small talk as I checked their items out, and smile and wish them a great weekend, making eye contact with them as I said it so they knew I meant it. I can tell you, it wasn't in my own strength! Only God could have helped me, because with all the factors and all the crazies (myself included), I know myself enough to know I could have easily given into the frustration. The cool thing is, I began to see people change as the afternoon went on. One of my coworker's mood improved dramatically, and I noticed patrons demeanors transform in front of me. When I smiled and looked them in the eyes, they'd cock their head at me kind of surprised, and you could just see the change over their expressioin. In most cases, frustration and impatience were replaced with good wishes in return. So by the end of the day, I was enjoying myself as much as any preschool storytime day (which are my all time favorite days!) And I know I'm not perfect or a saint, so it's something we are ALL capable of doing.

So the question I ask both you and myself is do you mean it when you smile at someone and tell them to have a nice day or when you ask how they're doing? The challenge I give to each of us is to do just that... mean it. I hope I'm seen as a pretty friendly person. Some days are easier than others. This may not always be a struggle. But I know that some days it is. We can't do it on our own. I know God honored my request on Saturday, and I don't want it to be just a one time thing.

Think about it.

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