Since April of last year I have been employed at a grocery store called Hy-Vee in my town and feel super blessed to work there. (If you don't have one in your area I feel very sorry for you. ^_^) I have a variety of things to do, including sacking groceries, retrieving carts from the parking lot, a little cleaning and stocking, helping customers load their vehicles, and more. The employees are kind to me, the deli food is awesome, the pay is decent, many of the customers are friendly, and the business should be steady in financial difficulty.
One of the things I like best about the store is their commitment to serving the customer in a friendly and helpful way, which reminds me of Jesus' words that "whoever wants to be the first must be last." We even park behind the store so customers can get insider faster! Our motto is "a helpful smile in every aisle" and we try to do that as much as we can.
However, it has occurred to me that giving a helpful smile in every aisle can require a lot of effort and take away significant energy from the rest of my work. It may not sound like much but stretching your facial muscles often can make you tired and, despite what some may say that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile, I'm afraid I must disagree. So I thought about this not long after beginning my work there and devised a plan to save energy so I can save it for what really matters: the groceries. So far I think the plan has worked quite well and I thought I should tell you about it.
Each day, whenever I happen to walk through aisles on my way somewhere, I will smile and say hello to the customers I meet and ask them if they need any help. There are 14 main aisles and other smaller aisles in other locations, and each one contains different items set in a certain arrangement for people to buy. (I thought I would tell you just in case you wanted to know) I will smile to the men and women, old and young in every aisle... except for half of them. On even days I'll smile in odd number aisles, and on odd days I'll smile in the even numbered aisles. The rest of the aisle I'll just have a normal, indifferent expression. I will still talk to customers when I pass through them but will NOT smile at all of them, thereby saving me around 5% of my energy.
Near the end of the work day, I will gradually increase the number of these aisles until three-fourts of them are "no smile zones" and this will save me even more energy to make it through the rest of the day. However, I realized that there is still more that I could do so I continued the plan. I noticed that some people who are having a bad day (or bad attitude) take more energy to please, and so I am careful to avoid the aisles they're in, or pretend I don't see them, or something like that. This may sound harsh, but it is probably their own fault that they are in a bad mood, and it shouldn't be my job to make them happy. Besides, if I somehow caught their bad mood and passed it on to those around me, that would cause more damage than anything! Some risks are not worth taking.
The plan doesn't stop here though. On days when I am not in a pleasant mood and don't feel like smiling at all, sometimes I will suck on lemons or think of funny jokes to help myself smile. It is not always effective but works better than nothing. Some days when I don't have much energy I will lift the ends of my lips to just a hint of a smile (and not show my teeth) so customers can probably think I am happy to see them. Another thing I shouldn't forget... grinning (the showing of the teeth) can take twice as much energy as a simple smile, and I am careful to reserve this for important people, such as my employers or people I am eager to impress.
Many of these rules still have their limits of course. If a customer smiles at me, I am obliged to smile back the same as they do or at least 75% as much smileage. And I can't forget to mention that if I see a pretty girl somewhere I will be sure to always ALWAYS give her the biggest smile I possibly can, and put as much energy as possible. What does this have to do with groceries, you may ask? Uh... I'll get back to you on that.
Yet another thing I can't forget to mention; walking outside of aisles. In these zones, I am free to choose whether or not I want to smile at all. I do not consider myself in the aisle until my body is completely between two shelves, and that is where I can smile as long as it is a "smiling zone" for the day. In case you are wondering about places such as the check-outs and outside the building, yes the same rules apply here as with outside the aisles and the mood of the people. I want to keep things simple and not overthink everything. That would just be ridiculous.
In some scenarios I will run into people I am not very fond of and find myself unable to escape them. When this happens I will still smile at them, but in a way that is obviously not friendly and more leaning to the rude and obnoxious (such as sticking out my tongue, giving awkward stares, or pushing my nose up like a pig's). I do this to help them lighten up and stop taking life so seriously, and keep myself from saying things I could regret later. I don't know if it works very well but it's better than nothing. Although I am reconsidering this plan as you read it.
My plan of attack with smiling can sometimes require much thinking and planning ahead, but the rewards are worth it. I can get more work done, save my smiles for people who deserve them, and put the carts and items where they belong with the most of my effort. This is what my job is all about, and I want to always put my priorities in the right shelf. The main thing is always to keep the main thing the main thing.
Of course none of this is true. Anyone who acted like this would be thought of as a very selfish, foolish, and strange person. But let's stop and turn the mirror back towards ourselves. (You probably saw this coming!) How often do we act like this? We treat some people in a loving way, and others in a different way, like ignoring them, showing no respect, or other things like that? How often do we put more importance on material objects instead of people who have a soul that God loves just as much as us, and will spend eternity with Him or in lonely separation? How often do we forget that, like an employee, we represent something and Someone bigger than us, and every action we make will shape thoughts and opinions of that One we represent. We can't pick who gets da love and who gets da leftovers. A song I love and that makes me think is "If We are the Body" by Casting Crowns, and one line goes, "Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come. And we are the body of Christ." We should do our best to remember who we are, who we are working for, and what we're doing here. Our Father will help us do this task. Let's have a helpful smile and serving heart everywhere we go. Not just when it's easy.