Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Courtesy Isn't Really That Common

About two years ago, my friend, Jorie, turned me onto doing research focus groups.  She gave me the names of two research focus groups in Dallas that pay people cash to give their opinions on products and services.  Since that time, I've had the opportunity to participate in several groups, mostly for foods and beverages.  This morning, I participated in a group that was focused on the topic of juice.  A major juice brand is launching a new ad campaign, and the group was comprised of moms like myself who are conscientious about the foods and drinks that we serve our kids.  We watched a series of unfinished ads and then we were asked to give our opinions about the ads that we'd just seen.  I think this kind of thing is interesting, because it gives me insight into the ways that companies market their products to consumers.  I like the psychology of it all.  Plus, the cash don't hurt!

Anyway, I left the focus group and headed back home.  Since I was flush with cash, I decided to treat myself to lunch (Brian was in a meeting and couldn't have lunch with me.  <Sad face.>).  I went to a bakery/cafe near to one of the megachurches in the area where the ladies do lunch after Bible study.  There were also a few ladies on their lunch break getting their food to go, but you can probably get a sense of the kind of place I'm talking about.  I was standing in line with a group of mature gals who were trying to decide what to get.  Apparently, I had inadvertently gotten in line in the middle of the group.  They leaned around me to speak to one another about the menu.  Eventually, the ladies in front of me made their decision and one of the ladies who was using a walker went to sit down.  Her friends knew what she wanted and were buying her lunch.  It was a very nice gesture.  As she turned away from her friends to leave the line, I stepped aside to let her pass and smiled at her.  The expression on her face could only be described as sour.  When I smiled, she looked at me as though I was something unpleasant she'd found on the bottom of her shoe.  Now, I've been told that I have a nice smile.  (It should be, as I've worn braces twice now, and still sleep in a retainer!)  I was dressed nicely--casually, but nicely.  I had curled my hair and done my makeup.  I was clean and in no way offensive in my deportment, so I figured that her expression is probably her usual one:  Sour. 

As I thought about this incident on the way home, I was struck by the general discourtesy that I'd seen by the lunching ladies.  I think that someone said "Excuse me," only once in the time that I was there.  This, despite the fact that ladies leaned around me and in the tight quarters of the restaurant, people were squeezing past me quite a lot.  The joy of Jesus just didn't seem to be evident in this place.  The ladies in the cafe were dressed very nicely and had there hair done and makeup on.  They looked nice outwardly, but the Bible places a higher premium on our inner beauty:  "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."  (1 Peter 3:4-5)

I am not unlike most people in that I try to get a sense of who a person is by the way that they look.  It's not completely futile to do so, either.  We can learn a few things from the outside of a person, but only a few.  I think that the fastest way to reveal a sense of joy and the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is by our courtesy to others.  Smiling at others and acknowledging their presence is a nice way to extend courtesy to those around you.  Standing in the midst of the Bible study hangout, I was kind of embarrassed.  I don't want to be lumped together with Christians who look nice but act coldly.  I try to be polite to everyone.  I may fail sometimes, but I sure try.  I may not always have something to say, but a smile goes a long way toward being friendly.

I am sure that the lady with a sour expression is a wonderful saint.  She may have lots of wisdom to share with others.  Perhaps if she had smiled more today, she might have left me with a different impression of her.  The same goes for others in that cafe.  For myself, I am reminded that I only get one chance to make a good first impression.  I need to remember to be courteous and kind to others.  You just never know who is watching.

Many blessings,


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