... in remembered kindness

Published on 31 Jan 2020
Sign which says OPEN on shop window

I've had a few jobs in my time I didn't enjoy, but I think the worst job I ever had was a zero hour contract working on the tills in a shop, a job which could be both busy and boring simultaneously. Soul crushingly busy, so you felt like a robot, and soul-destroyingly boring, as sometimes you'd stand for hours and barely see a customer. 

For those that don't know this retail jobs can vary immensely, and much depends on the team you work with and the managers, as well as the kind of shop. This place had policies such as: no use of phones on the shop floor, no reading of books in quiet moments (though it was clear that some of my colleagues did read books when they thought no one was watching) and no chatting among staff. We had to keep the shelves spotless and were told off if the shelves weren't fully restocked at all times. The managers never worked the shop floor and clearly earned a great deal more than we did (I am not sure it was even Living Wage). As a result of this the boredom could be extreme but also the atmosphere among the staff was affected. I was there long enough that I could have made friends with the other staff, but as we weren't allowed to speak to one another, didn't share break times and had a rotating shift pattern with a large number of staff (and a high staff turnover) I didn't get to know the other members of staff. I remembered the people who were snappy or unkind, and tried to put others in their place: one was the kind of person who might have been a school bully. Overall the experience of working there was such that's its the only place I've worked where I woke up with dread on the days of my shifts and on leaving for good, I didn't have an ounce of regret or sadness in doing so. 

One thing though came to me as I thought about this experience, and that was the few members of staff there who would share a smile or a kind word, helped me settle in when I was new, or let me go early for a break. The people who were the kindest were all immigrants to this country who spoke English as a second- or third language, looked different and had different cultural backgrounds. They all knew what it felt like to feel like outsiders, to feel on the back foot all the time, maybe to be bullied or at least treated differently. They were gentle and treated me warmly. 

I will not forget this kindness. 'So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.' Deuteronomy 10: 19.