Sunday, April 05, 2015

Spilled soup offers a lesson in effective human relations

Should you expect others to treat you well when you treat them well?

That's not something you can count on. Expecting something in return for civil behavior can be a frustrating game. The motivation for behaving well toward others should fall more in line with the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.

But sometimes a good deed done can yield a good deed in response -- and even a healthy dose of mutual respect.

G.L., a reader from Boston, writes that he often buys his lunch at a burrito cart parked in the lobby of a nearby government building downtown. About a year-and-a-half ago, G.L. bought a bowl of chicken vegetable soup at the stand. Granted, this was an unorthodox choice at a burrito stand, but he had a hankering for a nice cup of soup.

G.L. paid for the soup, then walked back to his own office building. Unfortunately, when he got into the elevator, he dropped the soup and watched it spill all over the floor. He took care of getting the mess cleaned up, but was still hungry so headed back to the burrito stand. The owners expressed surprise at his quick return, wondering if something had been wrong with the first bowl of soup.

G.L. admitted what had happened and was surprised by their response. They handed him another bowl "for no charge," he writes.

Ever since then, G.L. makes a point of leaving a small tip -- anywhere from a quarter to $1 -- when he buys something at the burrito stand.

"I like the people who run the stand," he writes.

Last week, G.L. bought a chicken burrito for $6.75. Feeling particularly generous, he handed the cashier what he thought was a $10 bill and told her to keep the change.

As he started to walk away, he heard the cashier shout, "No!"

"You gave me $20," she said. She handed him his change, of which he took $10 and gave her the rest as a tip, thanking her profusely.

"I was touched by her doing this," he writes, "especially since I'd explicitly said, 'Keep the change,'"

G.L. writes that he believes the cashier's actions prove that "good deeds spur other good deeds and build relationships." Sometimes they do. And the cashier went above and beyond to do the right thing even when, given G.L.'s instructions to keep the change, she didn't have to.

Would G.L. have felt so generous had the elevator soup mishap not happened? Would the cashier have done the same thing for a customer who hadn't been such a good tipper and loyal customer? Perhaps not.

But the right thing is for both burrito stand buyers and sellers to treat each other well, regardless of whether they receive anything in return. The same goes for each of us. Do unto others and sometimes what others do unto you will warm your heart. Enjoy the soup. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Anonymous said...

The golden rule says "do unto others as you would have them do likewise unto you". This example is perfect proof of this method of leading your life.

Charlie Seng
Lancaster, SC

Anonymous said...

I have a small business selling low priced used cars and some used parts. One day a Hispanic man that I knew a very little came down for a used tire. I found one for 10 dollars. He paid with a 20 and I gave change.
He walked to his car over 100 feet away with the tire, then turned around and walked back.

When he came back, he handed me the hundred that I had given in change.
This was the ultimate in honesty as I never would have known of the error. And, being 50+ years old and buying a used tire, is kind of proof he was not wealthy.

As he was totally able to keep it and he chose not to. One realizes there are honest people in the world.

Alan Owseichik

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