This is a true story of a sorta bad day turned kinda nice by one guy with a simple mission, and I think it’s important to share.
Bad days come in all shapes and flavors and this one was just mildly bad…troublesome traffic, stores that didn’t have what I needed, annoying phone calls, a schedule that could not be conquered.
I don’t often eat in at fast food restaurants. Fast food is something you grab to take home, but on this day, for some reason, maybe because I was starving and yet had more errands to run, I decided to eat in. It was the middle of the afternoon, there were only two cars in the lot. I thought this could be pretty quick and I’d be on my way.
As I entered, a young man who had been mopping the floor held the door for an elderly woman in front of me and then for me. As we entered, he cautioned us about the wet floor.
He came in the store behind us, went behind the counter, washed up and then took our orders. The elderly woman (I’m old, but I’m not elderly yet!) went on to get her drink and her meal. I ordered and as I fumbled for my money, the young man started telling jokes: “Do you know what the fish said when it swam into the concrete wall?” “No.” “Dam!” said the young man. I smiled, handed him my money and prepared to move on…but not before he got off a couple more pretty good jokes.
After I got my drink and my meal, my mind was full of muttering about the day I was having when I noticed that the young man had come out from behind the counter and was finishing his mopping. As he went past me, he said, “You’re probably going to get tired of me, but I have a million more…” and he proceeded to tell me about the guy who went to a costume party with a girl strapped to his back. The host said “this is a costume party, what are you doing?” “This is my costume…I’m a turtle.” “But you have a girl strapped to your back.” “I know…that’s Michelle.”
Now that one made me chuckle, and by this time, I was feeling less stressed about my day, so I asked him how he came up with all these jokes. I never expected what I learned next.
He’d been in a serious accident some years earlier, suffered pretty critical injuries, some brain damage. Unable to work or care for himself while recovering, he moved back in with his mom. After many months, as he got stronger, he began volunteering at a food site and over time was hired as a permanent part time worker at the site. When he was able to go back to work, he continued to work at the meal site and also got a job as a cashier at a dollar-type store.
He said that as he worked with the public, he began to realize that everyone had their problems. In his words, “You only encounter these people for a short time, you don’t know when they go out the door, what kind of life they’re going back to. So, I figured if I could just put a smile on their face, it might be the highlight of their day. When I worked the checkout, I even carded a lady for toilet paper.” “Did she laugh?” I asked. “No, she got pretty ticked, (comic pause) …but her boyfriend thought it was hilarious!”
I know one thing for sure, that guy, in his humble job at a fast food restaurant, sure put a smile on my face that day, and I left with a renewed appreciation of the fact that since we don’t know what kind of life others have, we should just go with “Be kind. Make someone smile.” What can it hurt? We may be the highlight in their day.