As much as I go on and on about rudeness in South Dakota, in all fairness, I need to tell you about Amanda. I am in Rapid City for a few days. Once again, I am the tag along wife – but better than sitting in the apartment. Sometimes that apartment feels like a luxury cell, but a cell nonetheless. State Fair, more cows and cow poop, is just around the corner. I’ll be a Fair widow for over a week. I do get to preach at one of my very favorite places otherwise, I might have taken off and gone somewhere, anywhere for the Labor Day weekend. But preaching, especially at Grandview, always has top priority.
Friendliness has been lacking in my South Dakota experience. Maybe it is because in general we have noticed that Rapid City is friendlier. Maybe it is the Air Force base, maybe it is the tourists, I don’t know, but there is a better feel here. Plus I am downtown in an old classic hotel away from the cowboys and belt buckles, arrogance and big hats. So when I find friendliness, I pay attention to it.
We had a good experience a few weeks ago that I should have written about. We were in the little town of Clark SD, which is in Clark County for a 4-H Achievement Day. Not only did they have awesome BBQ chicken, they had really friendly people. My husband and I both talked about it for days. Everyone, from the children, to the old people were friendly. We ran into some people from this county at other 4-H AC Days and lo, and behold, while the locals at those Fairs were typically non-friendly people, the ones from Clark came and said Hi and continued to show that they were friendly. I joked that maybe it was the water – if it was, I should bottle it and sell it all around South Dakota.
So what about Amanda? You are probably thinking maybe I forgot about her. No, I didn’t. I am sitting in a Seattle’s Best Coffee Shop off the lobby of the Alex Johnson Hotel in downtown Rapid City and she is busy working behind the counter. I sat here yesterday for a few hours. The coffee was good, the internet was free and I had good company too.
Amanda is an employee at this coffee shop. I hope her boss knows how good she is – she should get a raise. I owned a coffee shop once upon a time. It was a great experience even if we lost money and worked way too hard. One thing I learned is that people come to a coffee shop not just for the coffee. Starbucks seems to know that, I learned about that in class this summer in leadership class - it is ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE.
Amanda knows that. Yesterday when I ordered my scone from another worker, she quickly heated it for me. She heard me give the other worker my name and from then on, she called me Joyce. She heard it, she put it in her head and called me by name. I was here a long time yesterday. She’d come by and say Joyce, is everything okay? She knows that people like to be recognized by name.
I saw that they had their health inspection. I remembered those days. I saw her give a hi-five to the other worker after he left. I asked her about it. She happily told me that they got a 100! If there was an inspection for customer service and friendliness, she’d get a 100 for sure.
Today, I am here again. She greeted me as soon as I walked in the door. She said Hi Joyce, how are you this morning? I watched. She asked everyone their name and repeated it using their name in the order and when she gave it to them. Sometimes if she could catch someone on the way out, she’d say good bye and call them by name.
Just now three women walked in with gift bags. They obviously hadn’t been in here before. She looked at them and said good-morning ladies. Then she noticed their gift bags and said, oh Ladies, are you having a party? She made them feel instantly welcome.
We can learn a lot from Amanda. She’s young, cute and hopefully won’t spend the rest of her life working in a coffee shop. But if she does, she’ll be the best barista. Not because she makes great coffee but because she makes you feel welcome.
People ask me why I haven’t found a church in South Dakota. It’s been what, almost 3 years now? People ask me why I don’t feel at home here, and why I don’t like it. They think it is the weather. Or they think it is just me. It’s neither. It is because when I go to church there are no Amanda’s to make me feel welcome. There is no place I go where someone lights up my day with a big smile and a Hi Joyce, How are you today? It's the people, it really is all about the people.
You know what they say when you start pointing a finger – there are four looking back at you. I guess I should try to smile more and light up someone’s day. How about you?