Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 11, 2009

"Everyday people"

The photo next to the obituary caught my eye. I knew the woman, but I couldn't remember from where.

"Oh, she worked at the K-State Student Union," I told myself as I read on.

I didn't know she had been ill, but friends who knew her said Nina had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer. The last time I saw her was probably a few weeks or maybe even a couple of months ago. I don't go to the Union to eat often, but I always noticed her. She efficiently cleaned up trays, arranged napkins and straws and kept things tidy.

Her obituary made me think about Paul, the customer service manager at Wal-Mart, who died earlier in the fall. I've never really enjoyed shopping at Wal-Mart with its "big-box" feel, but Paul always made me feel welcome - as if I were the only customer in the store. And the other greeters and customer-service reps do the same thing. "Hi, welcome to Wal-Mart." I know they are taught to say that, but it's still a nice gesture and I appreciate it.

It strikes me that all of us are acquainted with many people whom we don't really know well, but who make our lives easier or more pleasant.

Take Wayne, our rural mail carrier. He always waves and smiles when he sees me. I sometimes leave a note - "Please tell me what I owe on these letters" - when I don't have time to go to the post office. He posts them and trusts that I'll pay him back, leaving a little yellow envelope in the mail box for me to put my change in.

Postal-counter workers in town - especially at this busy time of year - put up with people who have multiple odd-sized and poorly-wrapped packages, have filled out the wrong forms or are impatient because mailing holiday gifts and cards is one of about 10 chores they have on their to-do lists that day. No matter the situation, the clerks always seem to have a pleasant word to say to each customer.

Our Manhattan Mercury carrier leaves the newspaper neatly bundled and, in inclement weather, adds a plastic sleeve to keep it from getting soggy. Rarely do I have to call the Mercury office because my paper is late or doesn't arrive.

Our garbage collectors from B&L have never missed a day that I can remember. And if they did, all I'd have to do would be to call and they'd send someone within the next couple of days.

The folks at Burnett Auto know me by name - probably because we've had so many vehicles in there for oil changes and tire replacements. One day I stopped by because I thought the front tires felt a bit "mushy." Without missing a beat, they told me to pull around to the front garage door, where they promptly put air in all the tires.

Sharon at the east side McDonald's knows what Art will order before he knows. "That's a #13 Fish, go big, but just a regular-sized cup and a hamburger on the side."

I wonder how many other "everyday people" our lives intersect with in our daily routines - people who make our lives better. Crews that keep our roads cleared of snow. Receptionists at doctor's and dentist's offices. Clerical workers at our own places of business, who answer phones, order supplies, take care of payroll and field questions from people all day long. Wait staff at restaurants. Custodians. Pizza deliverers. Check-out people at retail stores. The list is a long one.

So how do we tell them we appreciate them?

Treat them with courtesy and respect. Be considerate. Don't chat on the cell phone while standing in line to get food or other service. Be patient. Notice what they're doing.

They make our lives better and we should try to do the same for them. Probably a simple "thank you" would go a long way. I hope I told Nina "thank you" for doing the things she did.

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