It’s that time of year, the time where I have to put to rest my open toed, backless shoes and wear hosiery that covers my entire feet. But after months of wearing sandals and being barefoot as often as possible, my heels needed to be made ‘sock worthy’ so that when I put on a pair of pantyhose I wasn’t catching fibers and making unfix-able runs or slicing through my socks with the razor edged pads of my feet. So I hopped on over to my, sometimes friendly, neighbourhood Dollerama to see if I could get my hands on a cheap pumice stone.
As I wandered aimlessly up and down aisles I quickly realized my search for heel relief was a bit futile, as I found myself drowning in random products over stuffing the shelves prepared for the Christmas rush. I thought I hit the jackpot of employees to ask for help because when I approached, I overheard her say cheerfully to her fellow co-worker what a great productive day she was having and how happy she was. This I thought, showed potential to receive service with a smile. After politely waiting for their conversation to come to an interrupt-able moment, I asked if she knew where the foot pumice stones were kept. She replied, “I’m not sure, but if we have them, they are down that aisle there.” I followed her pointed finger to the large sign that said aisle 5 and looked at the dauntingly long aisle full of soaps, shower curtains and adhesive rubber ducks for bathtubs. Before she even finished her sentence or I could ask anything further, she frantically went back to stocking the shelf and said with an overly chipper tone, “good luck”, making it clear that she was done helping and wishing me her best on my quest to find my treasure. I was officially dismissed.
Good Luck? I started down the immense aisle a bit shell shocked. She sends me off with good luck? Not even a, “let me help you find it” or “I can ask the fellow co-worker I am talking with if they know where you can find them.” Nadda. Zippo. Niet. Even the disgruntled employees I usually encounter will at least begrudgingly take me to the product I can’t find. But the merry self-proclaimed happy employee only had good cheer and well wishes to give me? Huh.
Like most things that happen to me in a day, the encounter with the cheerful unhelpful Dollerama employee was well timed. I had just finished reading a chapter in a Brene Brown book that I was trying to think my way through and this situation was helping me test what I really thought about what I had read. Brene asks the simple, yet loaded question,
What if we assume everyone is doing the best they can?
The teacher in me quickly gives a dramatic eye roll, since working with teenagers all day makes this question a no brainer to answer. But, my curiosity always trumps my inner meter stick wheedling cynical teacher. Really, what would this mean if I assumed everyone, even this dismissive employee, was doing the best they could?
Or what if I asked this question of myself? What if instead of beating myself up for not getting as many things checked off my ‘to do’ list as I want in a day, or condemning myself for failing at something I try, instead I show myself some compassion and reassure myself by saying,
I’m doing the best I can.
After all, that is all I can really expect of myself at any given time. It also means that I need to accept that ‘my best’ changes from day to day depending on what life has tossed my way. Being able to do this for myself feels like a genuinely kind act because I naturally remove the ‘should’s’ from my judgement.
My quick judgmental conclusion was that Ms. Dollerama could have taken a moment to help me find what I was looking for; she should be sharing her good mood not hording it. But the reality is, I have no idea what she was really feeling or experiencing, and thinking that her wishing me luck was the best she could do in that moment, feels a lot kinder than condemning her for it.
And it turns out her good luck was really all I needed… I left the store with a pumice stone and the hope of happy heels.