Sometimes our vantage point provides us with a most unique angle to view human nature.
Part of my job is running a local website. It’s an e-commerce platform, meaning that it is a gateway that allows people to purchase items from local businesses. Our customers are typically local folks looking to save a few bucks here and there. It’s a lot of fun, as I like to think we’re helping local business find local customers, and for the most part, I think that we succeed in that.
Having a job like that means that the majority of my interaction with our customers is via email. People write in with problems or questions, and I do my best to answer those questions. 99% of those people that write in are simply confused by a step in the purchase process, and I’m able to quickly provide them an answer so that they can be on their way.
And then there is the 1%.
I suppose it’s the anonymity that the internet provides, or the fact that they must assume I’m sitting behind a desk in India, or Pakistan, or Walla Walla, Washington, but that 1% of customers can really wear me out. If they’re having trouble verifying their purchase went through ok, it’s not “Hey there, I’m having trouble locating my receipt”. Instead, it’s “OH MY GOSH – you’re a bunch of thieves!!! You charged my account and I can’t find the receipt on your stupid, poorly designed thieving website!!! GRRRR!” You wanna know the part that’s really hard to stomach? Odds are, I personally know the person emailing me like that. Even worse, sometimes I know them from church. And I think it’s a really good teaching moment.
I’ve been guilty of this before. We’ve all called into our cell phone provider and had an epic meltdown over a billing error. We’ve gotten frustrated and screamed for a manager and acted like an 8 year old having a tantrum. We’re all guilty of this. I think the thing to remember is that the person on the other end of the phone is just that – a person. A fellow human being. That person didn’t wake up today with the idea that they were going to personally go find Jane Doe from Boerne’s cell phone account, mis-bill her, and then laugh at her when she calls in. Instead, that poor guy on the other end of the line has two kids he’s trying to feed, and his wife is out of work. He’s behind on his car payment and is just doing the best he can. Oh, and he’s on meds from having to deal with people like you that call in for 8 hours a day and scream at him.
But back to my point: we are Christians, and Christians don’t act like that. After screaming at the poor guy over your cell phone bill, you take a deep breath, and then you email your friend about how AWESOME last week’s service was at church? You know, the one about forgiveness and patience? Subconsciously, that person on the other end of the phone (or the website) isn’t really a person. They’re just a nameless, faceless drone that is there to take your beatings and answer your questions.
At least until you meet someone like me.
I live in your same town, and might have actually shaken your hand. I’m a real person with 3 kids and a mortgage. I’m here to help you, and yes, I suppose I’m here to let you scream at me. Proverbs 15:18 tells us, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” Guess which one we’re supposed
People are always watching one another and making judgments. We see one another as we interact, and decide what kind of person you are based on those interactions. I used to yell at the poor customer service rep on the other end of the phone. I don’t anymore, because I’ve walked in that poor guy’s shoes. Instead, I work to be patient with him, and hopefully even brighten his day. I have even ended calls by thanking him and saying “May God bless you.” I hope that after all the calls he takes throughout the day from people being frustrated and yelling at him, that my phone call is the only one he remembers.
Slow down out there, folks. Be good to one another. Take every opportunity you can to brighten someone’s day, and to be a representative of Christ. Even though it’s a mundane moment of calling for help to some guy with a headset on, why not take that mundane moment and bless that person.
Because you just never know – you might shake his hand someday.