“Always Be a Little Kinder Than Necessary”

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I’m young and naïve; so people tell me. My parents say that to me on a daily basis. Although, in my short 21 years of life, I like to believe that I’ve discovered a simple truth in life. If you’re good to people, then people will be good to you. This is my life’s philosophy. I think I heard it in a movie, but I can’t remember which one. Even though I’m blanking on the source, this idea has always been the guiding principle for my actions. Luckily, my parents also believe this philosophy so it’s ingrained into my way of life since birth. Although, as I get older, and have already had many wonderful life experiences, I’ve seen this idea become a reality. I’ve met so many people who are just full of love and compassion, and open to connection. At first, I just thought I was insanely lucky. I’d share my stories with friends, and they’d always say how I always had the good fortune of meeting such wonderful people. But lately, I’ve been thinking it’s more than luck. I like to think now that the reason I’ve connected with so many incredible people is because I was open to them.

My favorite example of this is of a local restaurant here in Boston called Café 472. It opened up my sophomore year at BU, and from the moment I tried their frozen yogurt, I was hooked. It’s a small place comprised of a very small and international staff. The employees are mostly Middle Eastern and even though they’re all from different countries, they somehow communicate in one language that’s not English. My friends and I went literally once a week for their froyo. I refused to go to any other froyo place in Boston after I discovered Café 472. It got to the point where after establishing ourselves as dedicated customers, my friends and I convinced the owner to buy a jar of Nutella just for us, to create a Nutella froyo flavor.

My relationship with Café 472 changed the summer after my junior year of college. A Starbucks opened up on the same block, and I got transferred to work at that new location. One morning, I saw the owner of Café 472 come into Starbucks, and I got so excited to see him just because he’s always been so kind to my friends and I when we go to his restaurant. If I like you, then you get free Starbucks from me. So I gave him a free coffee with a big smile, because I was genuinely happy to see him. He initially looked really taken aback and confused, but appreciatively accepted the small gift.

I went to Café 472 that weekend like I normally do, and he gave me my frozen yogurt for free. I would’ve jumped up and down with excitement, but I didn’t want to scare the poor guy. Since then, the owner and every other employee has never let me pay for any froyo or food. But, it’s become so much more than the exchange of free food. When I go now, I greet and talk to everyone. When I left to study abroad at the end of the summer, I went to say goodbye. Everyone hugged me, and one of the girls even started getting teary-eyed, which caused me to get teary-eyed. They’re my friends now. When I told them I’d be moving to San Francisco after graduation, one of the women said that they were all going to miss me. Another girl said she’d love to come and visit me someday. They’ve told me they’re excited to meet my family when they come for my graduation in May.

This wonderful group of friends that I’ve made came from simply being open to connecting with them. For two years, they were just people I saw once a week who sold delicious froyo and food. Now, they’re all good friends who I’m going to miss when I leave.

I believe that people respond to kindness. I’m not saying I’m a saint, or that I haven’t had moments where I’ve acted like a bitch when provoked. Everyone has bad moments. But it’s something to strive for. I just think it’s important to live with the mindset that you should always treat people with compassion and love. It’s such a simple statement. One that everyone claims to already know, but I don’t think that everyone lives by it. If they did, we wouldn’t have half the problems in the world that we do today. I don’t know, people tell me I’m young, naïve, too optimistic like those are bad things to be. So I may be all of those things, but I wouldn’t want to be anything else. I’d rather focus on seeing the beauty in people than concentrating on the rougher edges. And I must say that people also tell me that I’ve had the “luck” of having great experiences and forming these random wonderful relationships with people. So I must be doing something right, no? Try it for yourself and let me know what happens.

 

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The Ex Co-worker

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One of the fundamental rules when working is to never get involved with your co-workers. I broke this cardinal rule my sophomore year at college when I worked at Starbucks (which is still my miserable part-time job until May when I finally become a real person.) A graduate student named “Ken” started working with me after having just moved to Boston, and we got along great at work. He eventually asked me out and I excitedly accepted. He was the first guy in college who I was genuinely interested in dating. I’ll spare you the brief “relationship” that we had since it only lasted two months and ended awkwardly.

I was the one who eventually ended it for a variety of reasons, including the fact that he seemed unable to retain anything I said either due to stupidity or lack of attention. I made the mistake of saying, “I still want to be friends” when I ended it. I said it not be a liar, but to make working with him less awkward since we still had to work together roughly eight hours a week. However, I had no intention of actually hanging out with him outside of work. But c’mon everyone uses that line!

Luckily, we dated the spring semester of my sophomore year so I only had to endure roughly two months of awkwardness at work and avoiding his texts and calls before summer hit. When I returned as a junior we didn’t have any shifts together, and then I left campus for a semester to study abroad in London during his last semester as a graduate student. However, I stayed in Boston over the summer for an internship, and continued to work at Starbucks to pay my bills. So of course, I ran into him. Do you have those people in your life who when you see them, they never fail to remind you why they’re no longer in your life? Ken is one of those people for me. I feel bad saying that, because for all-important purposes he seems like a perfectly nice guy who means no harm, but it amazes me how little attention he puts in conversation. I think a wall pays more attention to me when I’m speaking than Ken ever did. The funny thing is that I’m not the only one who noticed this about him. After we broke up, everyone at Starbucks told me how annoying they found him, because he never paid attention so training him took double the time it should have!

Anyway, he came into Starbucks for his final paycheck since he’d already graduated and had a full-time job. I was working at the register at the time and my manager was a new worker named “Kendra” who I had just met a few weeks before this happened since I’d been gone for a semester. Coincidentally, just the week before she brought up Ken and how she knew he had dated a co-worker but didn’t know whom it was. I revealed that I was the co-worker since gossip spreads like wildfire in the food service industry. I figured I’d move the conversation along in order for it to be irrelevant quicker, and I was pretty sure she was the only person who didn’t already knew we’d dated.

When Ken entered, we locked eyes and I could immediately see his displeasure as I tried my hardest to hide mine by acting pleasant and friendly. We were catching up a bit since it had been almost a year that we hadn’t seen each other, until Kendra came over and greeted Ken. She instantly started gossiping about how she’d met the girl he’d dated. She goes on about how this girl had said all of these terrible things about him and started lecturing Ken about how he should never date co-workers. As she was saying this in front of both of us, I could feel my face light on fire. Kendra went on and on about how dating co-workers always ends so badly and that she didn’t understand why this girl didn’t like him, etc. I was stunned. It astounded me not only that this was happening, but also that someone could have such terrible memory. How could she have forgotten that the person she’s talking about is me when the conversation happened a week ago?!? Even Ken was extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable as he tried to hint to Kendra the awkwardness by mumbling, “Kendra, you don’t even know what you’re doing right now.”

To add the cherry on top of this epically awkward situation, once Kendra was done with her lecture on the problems with dating co-workers, she turned to me and asked with a genuinely confused expression, “Ariana, why are you blushing?” I was shaking with rage and as she so kindly stated, red in the face with embarrassment. Once she walked away, I had no idea what to say to move on from what just happened. My go-to strategy is to make a bad joke, and then just move on. So I sarcastically said, “Well, it’s nice to know that people still talk about how we used to date!” Ken had the decency to fake laugh, because it was a terrible joke, and then we went back to catching up on each other’s lives. But then it got much worse. Ken took this opportunity to remind me of one of the key reasons of why I broke up with him.

I think that when I had pointed out to Ken that he doesn’t pay attention to people when they speak, it struck a chord with him. Ever since, he’s tried to prove me wrong every time he sees me. It’s funny, because when he tries to prove me wrong, he ends up confirming my observation. In this situation, Ken proudly brought up how he remembers where I’m from, and states Guatemala. I’m not from Guatemala. I am from ECUADOR. They are two very different countries. There are people who have only met me once who have been able to remember that I am Ecuadorian. This is a fact that I would have expected a guy who I dated for two months to have remembered. But, it gets even better! When he got my nationality wrong, I just laughed. I wasn’t even angry! I just felt sorry for the guy, because it was pretty pathetic in my opinion that even in his attempt to prove my analysis of him wrong, he continued to reaffirm it. So I jokingly said to him, “Do you even know my last name?” giggling as I say it, because I thought I was just teasing him. Apparently, I had asked a difficult question. Ken did not remember my last name. A guy I dated for two months who seemed crushed when I ended things and spent months trying to win me back could not remember my last name. That’s when it stopped being funny and I was left speechless.

Ken tried to play it off like his ignorance wasn’t uncommon by asking me if I remembered his last name. I replied by telling him his last name, where he was from, and where he got his undergraduate degree without hesitation. You know how I did that? By paying attention to people when they speak to me. After I proved my point by stating these simple facts about him, I made it clear the conversation was over by saying that I hoped he had a nice day and then walking away. Please someone tell me that most men are not as oblivious as Ken and that there’s hope!