Empathic Relationship Building 101
I went to a post office this week near where I now live in Portland, Oregon. There were two clerks working, and no one was ahead of me. Soon, another customer queued behind me. One of the clerks, upon finishing a transaction, put up a "next window, please" sign, then quickly turned and walked away. Perhaps because the clerk never even looked up before leaving, the customer behind me muttered 'great. can you believe this stuff?'
My thoughts were 'yes, I can believe this. i've been to many a post office in my day, boy howdy.' But I've joined the ranks of paganistic non-dualists and therefore, since it's only another version of "the us who is one" behind the counter, I chose to think about what to say to the (female) customer behind me. And I said "I think maybe we should all work for six months at a post office, just so we could know what it's like. Any longer and we might, you know, go postal.' The woman smiled back at me, without nodding.
Now here's my goddamn lecture: If we think of the post office as "other" then we judge it and those who work there with critical ire, which furthers the distance between us, cementing the illusion of otherness. If we think of it (in this case the post office employee) as "us" then we try to communicate more humanely--not easily done, as we are pressured for time, beleaguered as a people and a culture. It is easier to be miffed by the "slings and arrows" than it is to love/identify with the "other." A suggestion: if you get Cold Service, respond with warmth (this is not the same as accepting abuse--like pornography, you know it when you see it). Respond with warmth, and melt the cold that you would have made your own.
p.s. After the sole remaining clerk was ready for my presence I walked up and asked how she was doing, and smiled as I did so. I was saying something that we usually expect to hear from whoever is being paid to put up with us. The clerk smiled back, I bought stamps. Utterly painless. The dirty little chain of animus was busted, if only for a time.
image by mjs, who is really just you in another form...