I ordered chicken tenders at the pool last summer for my kids. We are clearly not foodies (or we wouldn’t have ordered chicken tenders in the first place), but this meal was inedible. The poor little freezer-burned then overcooked nuggets barely resembled food.
My kids were disappointed, but happy to eat french fries for lunch, so I let it go. I did not complain. I did not send them back. I didn’t even tell the college girl at the concession stand that there was a problem.
My girlfriend sitting next to me was stunned. “Why don’t you send them back?” she asked. I took a moment to look around at all of the children happily flitting back and forth between eating and swimming. We had ordered chicken tenders 20 other times at that same pool and never had a problem, but today was different. The pool was full of kids, and the one worker at the concession stand was overwhelmed. She didn’t need me to remind her that this was not her best day.
I turned back to my friend and said, “She’s here, working, and I’m sitting in the sun, relaxing. Life is good for me. I don’t know what it’s like for her right now.”
There are times when I feel compelled to get my money’s worth, but there are also times when I don’t. Each situation is different, and this time, I just wanted to let it go and enjoy the day. Besides, when my kids eat too many chicken tenders, they don’t have room for ice cream, and it was definitely an ice cream kind of day.
A North Dakota woman who wished to remain anonymous shared a story with me that reminded me of that day at the pool.
“Quite a few years ago at noon in Valley City (N.D.) I ordered a hamburger with pickles, no ketchup or mustard, exactly the way I always order it. The waitress brought it with everything on it. I pointed out the error and when she brought out the new burger topped correctly I tried to give the wrong one back. She said, ‘Just keep it,’ quite curtly, and stalked off.
“I enjoyed my new burger, sort of, then noticed her angrily wiping tables and thought to myself, ‘It’s ridiculous that I should have upset her so over a darn hamburger,’ so I went over and apologized for my miscommunication. She smiled wanly and said, ‘I’m getting married at 4 at the courthouse.’
“Imagine that poor girl getting off work and heading downtown to get married! I guess she was a little distracted! I gave her a hug and wished her well and we both felt lighter-hearted.
“It’s so easy to make someone just a little happier and it sure makes me happier.”
There are certainly times when we need to speak up for our preferences. But sometimes, instead of focusing on how we’ve been slighted, it helps to focus on the other person and perhaps remind ourselves that we are all human.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.