When just out of college, and dog and house-sitting, I greeted the homeowner’s cleaning lady when she arrived during my stint.
The homeowner had not provided the $35 cleaning fee ahead of time, nor did she leave it at the house. And without five bucks to my name, I had nothing to give this gracious gal. I felt so horribly about the situation, and could empathize with her disappointment and frustration.
The homeowner and her husband had ventured away for some fun, but apparently not thought about their obligations at the house during those days, or perhaps they’d forgotten to leave the check out for their maid.
Cell phones weren’t used at that time, and despite tirelessly calling the hotel number that I’d been given, I was unable to reach the woman and just left numerous messages for her to call home, which yielded no calls back.
The “hired help” had shown up and done her duties as agreed upon, and now she needed her money. I was at a loss, but then remembered the woman whose pooch and pad I was looking after owned a swanky dress shop downtown!
And so, to cleverly remedy the situation, I advised the cleaner to drive over to that lady’s boutique, ask the shop girls to take the cash amount from the store drawer, and just leave a little note for their boss explaining such. I, too, agreed to relay that message to the shop owner whenever I heard back from her.
Thankfully, the gal was paid the same day for her services.
When that merchant returned home, having never returned a single call, she went ballistic!
“Taking money out of the store drawer is not an option!” She was livid. “That screws up the books for the store and the maid can wait two f**king weeks for her 35 dollars!”
I was in shock.
Not only had I confidently fielded the obstacle in a way that I’d deemed quite smart, but I was dumbfounded to hear those words flying out of her mouth!
You see, the cleaning lady could not wait for her money—she genuinely needed that humble income on that very afternoon so that she could put more gas into her car and get home.
She most certainly was not scouring this lady’s toilet because she loved the imagery, aroma and task. No, she, like so many of us, was doing what she could to make ends meet. And the 35 bucks, to her, was a lot.
That this irate woman could not grasp the concept was not only disgusting to witness, but it revealed the true her, someone I’d defended too many times to count, as her colors had shown themselves to many others in town. That she was selfish, looked down on hired help (and treated them horribly), and had to show the town how wealthy she was, were all well-circulated rumors. But I’d consistently and loyally had her back—each and every time.
“No, you don’t know her,” I would explain to others.
Yet there was no explanation for what I’d finally clued into on that day, and sure enough, I too—being “hired help”myself—would begin to be treated less respectfully with each visit, whether social or work-related.
Sure, she’d been amazing on day one! And she’d lured in so many individuals with her charm, warmth and generosity when first making contact. But the more people served her and got close, the more cavalier and careless she’d become about their well-being, and I was only disappointed in myself for not seeing it sooner.
Moreover, there is another obvious antenna that spikes up regarding such poor behavior. When the “hired help” has done their part, have we, in turn, done ours? Frankly put, do we do what we say we will? And to everyone, without bias or belittling? Or is it “no biggie,” depending on who it is?
For when we diss the hired help—the people who clean, cook, and drive for us, or serve and protect us, our kids, our pets, and our homes—we are mistreating the ones we need. Moreover, we are demonstrating a lack of appreciation and instead showcasing our narcissism.
That someone chooses to be snotty to the waitress, the grocery store clerk, or the delivery service people shows a lack of gratitude. And to bop about through life with such an unappreciative attitude is perhaps the most déclassé trait one can possess, regardless of affluence or popularity. Yes there’s a word for that, and that word is “sh*tty.”
Tragically, some of us move through life without so much as saying “thank you” to the people we foolishly believe “need” us and who we take for granted—when it is we who need them.
This snobbery, after all, is our authentic truth, whether we are in denial about that or not, and thus, whatever persona we deliver on Facebook or otherwise equates to nothing at the end of the day. Whereas how we give our compassionate heart and respect to other human beings (or how we don’t) is the raw and true core of who we are.
And if we look around and outside of ourselves and our circles, there is a big, beautiful, and thriving world out there that’s ready to receive our love, and it’s made of many hardworking hands and hearts that uphold and bring forth the “good!”
From laborious and diligent migrants, who cultivate our grapes and battle fierce weather conditions to make our luscious wine, or the rugged fishermen getting scraped and thrown around by the powerful sea, and the too many persons who are involved in providing the food that makes its way to the store shelves, we are enjoying our freedom and fun due to the sacrifice of others.
May we never forget that.
Yes, there are interesting, kind, and good people—those authentic souls who will “always remember how you made them feel,” (as the famed Maya Angelou quote states so well)—and they deserve to be treated, like anyone else, with respect.
Growing up in a small town, I learned early on that the same person we’re judging or looking down upon may in fact help dig us out of a murky snow bank some day, or go looking for our lost pet, or surprise us on multiple levels when serendipity and timing is right, and so it behooves us all to open up our hearts to that notion and to be kind!
Value people—their time, energy, efforts and what we can learn from them too, since we can surely become much better people from appreciating each other!
I haven’t seen that boutique owner in many years. At some point, I’d had enough of her toxic and insulting behavior and stepped away—into a life blessed with more compassionate and caring individuals. Though I would guess, if given the choice to handle that same situation, she would feel the same way. For it was through that poignant moment in time after all, that she revealed her deepest truth.
And how, instead, shall we quite lovingly choose to show ours?
Author: Laurie-Beth Robbins
Image: Tiffany Terry/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman