Serving with a smile

Published 7:34 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I walked into the College Drive McDonalds last week to do a story on Harriet King, a woman who I’d been told had mastered the art of the gracious welcome.

She didn’t know who I was when I walked in or what I was there for, but the first words out of her mouth were “Hi, angel. What can I get for you?”

I’d been told that’s what she’d say, but I was a little surprised the reports were so accurate.

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While I was waiting for her manager, she was still unaware of my reason for being there and continued to greet every customer with a smile and kind words.

She greeted each customer as she did me, and as each customer left she’d say “have a great day, sweetheart.”

Many of her greetings and farewells were hardly acknowledged, but she still called out to every customer who came in and went out.

When her manager told her why I was there, she showed humility and honor in her response. At first, she was a little confused. I can imagine that to her it was akin to someone wanting to do a story on her because she was breathing.

She’s been a cashier and greeter at McDonalds for nearly seven years, and loving people is just a part of her daily life.

She talked to me about why she felt the need to be so kind to everyone and where it came from. She told me she thinks of many of her customers as her family.

Sure enough, as we were leaving, a customer of hers walked in and shrieked with joy to see King. They exchanged hugs, and I stopped to interview her. She confirmed everything King had told me, and as the customer left, King told her to give her husband and son a hug.

It struck me, because it showed she doesn’t just know her customers on a surface level. She is invested in their lives.

Some readers might wonder what was so newsworthy about this woman. Others might think we were having a slow news day.

Truthfully, it wouldn’t have mattered what kind of a news day it was.

In fact, it was a story my editor, Tim Reeves, assigned me.

He recognized on his “newsdar” that a woman like Mrs. King is newsworthy because of her unique ability.

A job like Mrs. King’s undoubtedly comes with its challenges, but not only does she love her job, her co-workers and bosses, she shows it an unwavering smile.

There are few occupations that don’t include working with people — whether customers or co-workers — and all the challenges that come with the territory.

Whether we’re working at McDonalds or in a more elevated position, King should be a reminder we all have the ability to make an impact in the lives of those with which we come in contact.