Thursday, April 07, 2011

What Gave Ghandi a Sugar High, Alex?

He smiled broader than the man in the Cialis commercial!

There is a guy who lives in our building who works at the grocery store across the way. We see him often because he typically works the cash register at the accessible till. He is painfully, painfully shy. At first we misattributed, as must often happen to shy people, his behaviour to one of three things, arrogance, rudeness or homophobia. We were wrong on all counts. Over time we've seen him with others, he has difficulty getting a word out. Once we ran into him in another store and as I turned my chair to say 'Hi,' he actually ran away. Ran. Away.

So, we've determined to be friendly but not demanding. If we see him we say 'Hello,' and continue on. He's learned that we'll never buttonhole him for a conversation. As a result, maybe four out of ten times, he'll respond with a nod. Just a nod. But if that's all he's got to give, he's giving a lot. I get that. Most don't. I see that he's actively disliked in our building and isn't popular in the store. Shoppers will go to another till with a longer line. I think, maybe to be fair, his discomfort makes others uncomfortable themselves.

But I've no choice, it's either go through the disabled lane or steal the groceries. I don't steal. There are too many cameras. Today I picked up a package of 'Tangy Zangy' candy belts which were displayed by the belt where you place groceries. He saw me pick it up and actually spoke, 'A lot of people are buying those.' I asked him if he had tried them before I realized I should have just smiled, but then he broke the rules first. He said, using more words already than I've heard him speak in the three years I've seen him around, that he hadn't tried them but that everyone was buying them. I asked Joe to pick up two, one for each kidlet and then, on impulse I whispered to Joe, 'Grab one more and give it to him when we leave.' Joe looked surprised and had that 'No, you do it.' Look on his face.

Just as the final groceries were placed in the bag, Joe reached in and grabbed a bag of 'Tangy Zangy' candy belts and said, 'Here ...' and I jumped in to say, 'Take them home an go crazy.' He held the bag in his hand and said, 'Really?' We assured him that we wanted him to take the bag. A grin split his face in two as he placed the bag down on a shelf below the till.

Sometimes it's nice to take a risk.

Sometimes it works.

I tell you this only because I think we need to act on impulses to generosity and kindness more often. It might seem artificial to read about it here on the blog but it happened so naturally that it seemed for a second that we lived in a world where strangers routinely bought 'Tangy Zangy' for other strangers all the time.

And maybe we should.

So, get out there and 'Zangy' some stranger today. Go ahead, you know you want to.


Celtic Bryan said...

Dave you have a hell of a way of e putting things. I appreciate your honesty, candor, and humor.
Not to mention the help you have given me at work. (I work in a day program, and as a People First Helper in Northern California and we use a lot of your stuff). This is the first time I checked out your blog. Thanks and Great Job.

Kris S. said...

Absolutely lovely!!

My Girls R Angels said...

So true! Thanks for the reminder. :)

Andrea S. said...

As someone who has more difficulty engaging in face to face conversations than I do finding things to say on-line (I don't really *get* "small talk"), my own tendency to be quiet does often get mis-read, particularly when I was younger and even more shy and socially awkward than I am now. I have had other people tell me outright that they see me as "weird" and have been told that they read me as "arrogant" when I'm not trying to freeze people out, I just don't really know how to deal with the kind of "small talk" most people engage with. Get me on a topic I care about and have really thought about a lot and I'll talk a mile, but if it's just making conversation for the sake of making conversation then I have more difficulty figuring out what I'm supposed to say next.

I often wish that more people were formally *taught* about shyness and social awkwardness. In school when they see a kid who has trouble making friends or learning social skills, they always seem to want to train that one kid how to get along better with everyone else. And I don't necessarily object--when I was young, I did literally need to be taught how hearing people make "small talk" (since this was the kind of thing I couldn't over hear and that people usually didn't consider "important enough" to translate to me). But I often think that it would be more effective if you NOT ONLY taught the "socially awkward" child how to fake social skills but ALSO taught others to rid themselves of the offensive idea that every person who doesn't already know how to behave the way they expect are necessarily "weird" or arrogant but may simply need a little help. I would have found it easier to make friends if others knew to be assertive enough to reach out to *me* and initiate conversations with me more often, since it seems to be so much easier for others than it often is for me.

I don't know if shyness or awkwardness necessarily needs to be interpreted as a "disability" per se (unless it's actually social anxiety or Aspergers syndrome or something). But I do wish that people would approach it from the "social" model in the way that we in the disability rights field approach disabilities. By this I mean, sometimes it's not the shy person that needs "fixing" to be less shy, sometimes the rest of society needs to change, TOO, to accommodate them better and learn more respect.

Sorry this isn't quite on topic ... I guess it hit a nerve today. Dave, I like that you seem to have more insight that lets you figure out what's really going on with a person sooner than most people do.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Thanks for the reminder to make random acts of kindness. I will try to find the opportunity today.

I am a shy person - not as shy as the man in the grocery store but shy enough that people often misinterpret my awkwardness as aloofness. As the man in the grocery store illustrates, under these circumstances shy people experience a lot of rejection. Your persistence in trying to connect with this man is unusual. You have given him a gift far great than the Tangy Zangy candy.


Dave Hingsburger said...

I don't know Colleen have you HAD tangy zangy candy?

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I have not had Tangy Zangy candy but have had a taste of rejection - kinda bitter taste there. Here is the question Dave can candy taste better than kindness? Lucky guy in the grocery store got both!


Anonymous said...

I think I'll have to get out to the corner store soon. Great post!

Jane Meyerding said...

Are you sure it's shyness?

Anonymous said...

Dave you are such a sweet guy, I am sure the guy loved his Tangy Zandy candy!! Like others said, I am sure that the candy will taste even nicer as there was a whole lot of kindness that went with it!

Anonymous said...

Wow that was really touching and you dont really see that anymore, but I was reminded that a simple act of kindness can make someones day! You have a way of putting things and grasping the opportunity to share with others. Thanks CC

Noisyworld said...

Fizzy sweets and a great dollop of friendship, sounds like the best present anybody could receive :)

Nan said...

I'm going to go *zang" me a person tomorrow. I'll let you all know how it goes!

A few weeks back I got "zanged" (I think this should be the new verb for committing a random act of kindness) by the person in front of me at Bridgehead (a cafe here in Ottawa.) She stopped, looked at what I had ordered (coffee) and said "Oh, yea. I forgot. I'm supposed to do some random niceness to some random stranger... so I'll buy your coffee!" And the thing was... I was in such a rush that day and heading off to a meeting and I didn't even really hear her because I was totally somewhere else. The coffee person had to poke me, I came back to the present/here/now and went "Wow, okay. Thanks!" And that little random act of kindness brought me right back to being present and made me see what a wonderful day it was and just flipped my whole day around. Now that was some gift!

So let's go out there and *zang* someone and see what happens. Meet back here at Dave's blog and tell your story! (sorry Dave, don't mean to hijack you .. but you started it!!!!!).

Kristin said...

Truly wonderful.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Nan, I like the idea of going out to 'zang' someone. What a perfect word, I'm going to use it.

S.H said...

I really enjoyed reading this post, truly was touching. Amazing how something so simple can make such a big difference. You have a good way of putting things, I really enjoy reading your posts! :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,
We @ Tangy Zangy have read your blog and we're very impressed at what you did.
Can you please email us directly at @
We would like to offer you something in return for your random act of kindness.
Thanks and looking forward to hearing from you.