“People Can Be So Unkind!”

Garden Gatherings, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

“People can be so unkind!”

The woman ahead of me in the grocery store line was large and buxom, and her overheard complaint had to do with complete strangers coming up to her and telling her how fat and unattractive she was.

“Do they think that I never look in the mirror?” she asked the sympathetic clerk. “And really, is it any of their business? And what earthly good does it do to attack me?

“People can be so unkind!”

We read a lot these days about high school girls bullying other girls, as if this were a new and growing phenomenon. Those of us old enough to remember Janis Ian’s At Seventeen realize that such mean-spiritedness has been going on for a long, long time. My 90-year-old mother remembers the caustic teasing she and her Polish farm siblings received at school because they rushed there immediately after milking the cows in the morning.

“We used to lean our heads against the cows’ flanks,” she remembered, “and as the cows had a habit of lying down on anything, including their waste, well we got stuff embedded our hair and didn’t realize it.”

Any guesses on the nicknames?

I’ve heard some propose a national day of encouragement, and it’s not a bad idea. How difficult, really, is it to walk up to someone and say that the blue of their blouse brings out the blue in their eyes?

I mean, if you were going to go up to them anyway and tell them how fat they are, is it any stretch to simply exchange one sentence for another?

In the years that I have spent staying home and raising my children, I have had the opportunity to interact with a LOT of grocery clerks, auto mechanics, dental professionals, receptionists, and just plain people in the aisles. Having been a grocery clerk myself, it didn’t take much training to learn to look the person in the eye, smile, and say Good Morning. It took one of my daughters who worked as a bagger to point out to me that the bagger is the lowliest form of life in the grocery store, and while some people smiled and thanked the checker, NOBODY noticed the bagger.

So I added that to my default mode.

At the U-bake pizza parlor, I have gotten into the habit of complimenting the pizza maker on the appearance of the pizza, especially the stuffed ones that require such dexterous twisting and shaping of the dough, as if it were a pie crust.

“What a beautiful pizza!” I always exclaim (much to the chagrin of any teenage child of mine lingering about). From the expression on the clerks’ faces (startled surprise), they must not get that comment very much. Sure, I may be the flakey blonde mom woman, but at least I took the time to tell them that what they did, they did well.

Is that so very difficult?

It’s the small things in life that add up to make the big ones. Leaving little compliments and happy thoughts strewn about not only improves the lives of those around us, but ours as well, directing our thoughts toward calmer pastures and away from the many and sundry distressing elements of day to day life.

It’s free. It’s accessible. It’s easy to do.

Go ahead. Say something encouraging to someone today. Be kind.

About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She writes about life, art, and the art of life.
This entry was posted in Christian, Culture, Encouragement, Family, Growth, Personal, Relationships, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “People Can Be So Unkind!”

  1. mennogirl says:

    I know what you mean, random comments from strangers can completely make or break my day. A month or so ago I was wearing my fun winter coat, boats and a nice dress and I got too compliments from random strangers (other women actually!) on my outfit and it was the loveliest feeling.

  2. Heather says:


    I always try to thank people for what they do. Sometimes I forget though — scatterbrained writer, here! haha — but I always try. In restaurants, especially if the waiter is really busy, I’ll leave a note in addition to the tip. “Service was great!” or “The food was really good!”

    You never know how much a nice word or two can affect someone.

    On a side note, I came across a website the other day, “Operation Beautiful.com” that encourages the use of random words of kindness, written on post-it notes and left for people to read. It’s aimed more at women and girls who have issues with body image (which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish!), but I think it would work well for anybody.

    Great post.

    • I like the notes to the waiters — I bet they don’t get many of those, and it would be something to keep in one’s pocket for one of those really bad days.

      I wonder what other original means of encouraging there are, waiting to be created.

      Happy Weekend!

  3. Pingback: How to Complain, without Hurting Others | This Woman Writes by Carolyn Henderson

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