Maybe this is due to my time spent in Uganda, but I am more attuned to people in America saying “sorry.” Perhaps it’s because there’s such a sudden lack of the word in my world — Ugandans frequently say “sorrryyyyyy” about many things. It’s more a sign of solidarity or commiseration or acknowledgment there rather than here in the US, where it’s attached to ownership of an action (usually). I didn’t notice this until I got to the east coast, but recently there’s been three separate occasions where strangers apologized to me in ways that kept me thinking days after the interaction:
- The local coffee shop by my office is run by the most charismatic, warm and energetic Italian man who brightens my days. I was in the shop waiting for my order to be ready, when a man walked in and was so happy to be speaking Italian with Jonny the owner. However, he turned to me after a few minutes and apologized for speaking in Italian, for speaking his language. I was in no way annoyed or confused as to why he would love to do so and responded “no problem” while smiling.
- I was staying a bit late at work, and the maintenance man came by the grab the trash from my bin. He apologized (I assume for disrupting me, which he didn’t and I don’t even have a door so it’s not like it’s strange for someone to pop in). Again I said something along the lines of “no worries.”
- This was the most interesting… because it had a follow up conversation. I was entering a restaurant where there was a bouncer. The man stopped me and apologized for having to check IDs. Something about that made me turn my head to the side and say “why are you apologizing? It’s okay, you’re just doing your job.” The man stopped, looked me in the eyes, and genuinely thanked me for saying that. We then had a little banter about people being the worst.
I don’t know if this is because of people being individualistic, rude, hurried, self-consumed, or what… but the fact that on three separate occasions I was genuinely apologized to for basically people living life/doing their jobs/going about their business is something I’ve been ruminating over.
Are we too into ourselves to just be kind? Are we bothered by the people around us? I think people are aching to be noticed and appreciated. I hope our materialistic me-me-me doesn’t fully get in the way of being decent to those we interact with, in whichever capacity.
I’m starting to pay attention to the people around me a bit more. You never know who God may drop in your path that could really benefit from something as small as a smile or a genuine “thank you.” Cliche, but true.