Last week I had the opportunity to take a much needed vacation. My husband and I decided to go on a cruise. It was a lovely time but what I gained from the trip was much more than rest. I received a revelation about comparing ourselves with others that will forever change my perspective of people.
I was able to catch a glimpse into the service industry of a cruise line. The 16 hour days, multiple jobs, and waiting on less than grateful people for a small wage. I couldn’t stop thinking about the men and women who served us day after day by cleaning our room, pouring our coffee, or just sweeping the deck where we were enjoying the sunshine. I decided to do some research about this profession and found that most employees of the ship make less than $700 a month, working 16 hour days, 7 days a week, for up to 10 months straight. My heart totally went out to these people. They looked so unhappy, all the while people are indulging in food, drinks, and excursions that they could only dream to enjoy. This made me think of the crude injustice and underlying comparison that goes on each day.
Regardless of what one may say there is a hierarchy that is immediately created, we are the passengers, the ones there to enjoy ourselves at their expense. Let me tell you, this made my trip much more difficult to enjoy. It was so difficult to allow them to serve me after learning of their conditions. On top of the low wages, these individuals sleep in small, sterile bunks in the lowest decks of the ship, forced to eat food significantly less appetizing than the elaborate meals served just a few decks above. They go months at a time without seeing their children, spouses and families creating a significant void, all while on a boat that many dream about boarding.
I tell you this not to talk you out of cruising but to make you think about the way you treat those who serve you. There are so many circumstances, situations, and scenarios that go on behind the scenes that we are unable to comprehend. I don’t want to be guilty of comparing my life and my experiences to someone who is serving me, whether at Starbucks, the grocery store, or on a cruise ship. I want to see the person, not what they do to earn a wage. I want to step outside of the box and see them as my equal, not someone solely destined to serve my needs.
Character is what you do when no one is looking. Who are you to your waitress, your clerk, or someone serving you in the community? Do you treat them the same way you would treat your physician, attorney, or business partner? I am issuing a challenge; try to see the person through the profession. Lay down the spirit of comparison and pick up the spirit of unity.