Someone said something to me this week that really stood out.
Across the Lewvan from my house is a Bible School that very generously allows me to borrow books to use when I need to work on papers for my own schooling. I had been there the other day and picked out a few books for this next monster of a paper, and the librarian had stepped out for a moment; another teacher tried to help me out, but I was just a community member - I'm not surprised she couldn't figure out the system. That was no big deal, I would just go back later.
A few days later I went to rescue my books from cluttering the shelf behind their desk, and waited a few minutes for the librarian, who was nowhere to be seen. The library was full of students, and then their teacher showed up, walked over to me with a shake of her head and before she even got to the desk said, "I can't help you!"
I immediately felt guilty for putting her in a position of such anxiety! I didn't expect her to know how to use the system; maybe she might have known the answer to a simple "Do you know when the librarian might get back?" which, yes, would have been helpful. I felt sorry for this lady who maybe I just caught at a bad time, but who apparently didn't know that TRYING to be helpful even if you couldn't actually help makes life quite a bit nicer for the people in your path.
Moral of the story: A smile and a "Can I help you?" goes a long way. Even if you don't work there.
(This was first published on my church blog.)