A short while ago, I met the Most Perky Panera Employee ever.
Her name tag read Anna, and she sported a cute pixie cut that made her Panera apron look like something from a Paris runway. As she took my order, her words bounced throughout the store like a pep squad leader’s, cheerful and bright. Given the late evening time, I wondered if she’d thrown back more than one espresso through the course of the day.
Not long after taking my seat close to the counter, a teenage boy plodded in, feet heavy and tired. He approached the counter, fingers combing his sandy blonde hair as he mumbled to Anna,
“Um, can I . . . uh . . . get a job application?”
Anna immediately sprang into action.
“Of course! I’d be thrilled to help you out!” she leaned slightly across the counter, her smile sparkling. “Now listen, you can find everything you need online. Go to panera.com and fill out their application tonight, k? Don’t skip any of the parts! Then come here first thing tomorrow morning and turn it in. That’s what I did and I got a call for an interview within a few days!”
The boy looked bewildered but nodded.
“And you know what else?” Anna chirped. “I’ll be here in the morning! Yep, I’ll be here first thing. I’ll make sure your application gets to *juuuust* the right person, k? Does that sound good to you?”
He answered a bit more confidently, “Well, yes. Thank you.”
And then she threw one last cartwheel into her pep talk, “Great! You know what? You’re as good as hired, I just know it! I’m rooting for you!”
After one more thank you he turned and left, his footsteps noticeably lighter. The boy may not have known what hit him, but he couldn’t help but feel buoyed by her cheerleader words and effervescent enthusiasm.
While we don’t all have the personality or comfort level to tell a stranger we’re rooting for them, perhaps we can be brave and kind enough to gift these words to someone we do know. There’s no doubt that words give life. Their weight and movement can energize people and give them confidence to not only see themselves the way their Creator does, but to do things they might not have had the courage to do otherwise.
While shaming words can take courage out of a soul, encouraging and affirming words can put courage back in. –Scott Sauls, Befriend
Each of us have been on the receiving end of shaming words that feed lies and strip truth of its courage. We know snarkiness and unfair criticism can do harm, but I think we underestimate just how motivating – and reality changing – life words can be.
And while kind words indeed give courage to others, kind words take a good dose of courage to deliver as well.
Hop onto social media for ten seconds, and you’ll see biting, sarcastic communication is the way the river flows these days. I say that with the full knowledge that I myself have a sarcastic streak, oh yes I do. But really, sarcasm is just pride in a cute skirt. And habitually engaging in it is to go the easy way down the river.
I want to be part of a people traveling the waters upstream.
Yes, there’s a time for constructive criticism. A personal rebuke has its place, certainly. But cutting others down to build ourselves up is never the way of Jesus.
Choosing to offer kindness makes other souls stronger.
Choosing to speak kindness makes our souls stronger.
And on an ordinary Tuesday in Panera, I saw both in action.
On each day thereafter, I hope I don’t ever forget that there are a thousand ways to let others know you’re for them as you fan the flames of courage within them.
May we each find a way to travel the courageous, upstream way and let someone know,“Hey, I’m rooting for you.”
And I’m rooting for you, too.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I love it – “Sarcasm is just pride in a cute skirt.” Believe it or not, I can be sarcastic – I just tend to mumble it under my breath. I think pride inhabits all of us to a degree and it’s that very thing we need to fight when we offer kindness. The world says for us to look out for #1 which has us asking, “Hey, where’e the love and kindness for ME?” Like you so wonderfully pointed out, God instructs us to offer up kindness and encouragement because it’s good for us as well. I know when I tell someone I’m rooting for them, MY mood lifts. It’s definitely a win-win proposition. Now, we all don’t have to be as perky as your Panera friend, but a little love, and encouragement, and kind words goes a long, long, way. Thanks for this poignant and timely reminder as I start my week 🙂
Blessings sweet friend,
Kristen Strong says
I don’t know anyone who’s as perky as her. 🙂 🙂 Still, like you said, encouraging others encourages us in the process. Win-win for sure!
Michele Morin says
I feel the pull of that downstream current — not so much toward online sarcasm, but just taking the social path of least resistance — sins of omission, where silence is given rather than the gift of encouraging words. Thanks for this gentle rebuke — I don’t need to have a cheerleader personality to be courageously leading the way in encouraging my sisters in Christ.
Amen. JOY isn’t always laughing and joking and enthusiastic, but it is obvious. ♥
Kristen Strong says
Amen to you both, Michele and Lisa. Thanks so much for sharing here!
The world, the sprains, strains and stains of it…can lead us to be resistent to the “effervescent drink inside of you” that the Holy spirit is waiting to serve up the world through you.
May the spirit arouse it in us today…to.burst forth with His HOLY joy – not the apprehensive reharsed joy that is afraid to deliver in case of rejection.
Let’s ask.the Spirit of God to first fill us to His “FULLness of JOY”…spilling over …and fiving us engaging spur-of-the-moment opportunities to deliver JOY pizzas in our homes, communities.
~Dear Lord: in You is Fullness of JOY. May your Spirit within us give us reflective joy and ignite a splash of sincere longing in us to SEE Your splendour-filled JOY and to BE JOY to others in our journey today.
Thank you that you are a God who laughs and you even “sing over us” because you delight [find joy] with us. Thank you that you will give us inrestrained and uncontained moments of joy this day this week, this month.
…” and NOW, May the God of HOPE [JOY!] fill us with ALL JOY & Peace [authentic Peace the world does not give us] in believing, that WE may abound in HOPE [JOY!] through the Power of Your Holy Spirit.”
In “JoyFULL Jesus’ Name…So be it.[Amen]
Joy in your journey ladies…and any men (?) who may be reading!
Thank you so much for that rousing prayer! More JOY to you, friend! Have a happy day in Christ. ♥
Kristen Strong says
Thanks for the hearty dose of joy here, Janine. Absolutely beautiful.
Thanks. I really needed to hear that today. It has surprised, confused and even hurt me sometimes when some people do not seem to respond well to enthusiasm directed toward their own endeavors. It’s not always easy to put yourself out there, especially when you know you don’t have all the answers. I am so glad this teenage boy did respond to Anna in a good way. Sometimes those who are facing the greater battles are those with smiles on their faces, cheering others on. I feel sorry for those who don’t choose to accept encouragement, in whatever form it comes in, and those who outright reject it and the messenger. LORD help them, and those who bravely attempt to root for them aloud (and continue to pray for them). Please LORD, promote more peace with harmony, wisdom with understanding in our Loving Christ. Thanks and glory be to God in Jesus’ Name, Giver of all good and perfect gifts in Whom there is no shadow of turning.
Kimberley Mulder says
Might I add that we speak with our bodies as well – sometimes I realize I said something kind but my body language, like rolling my eyes, releasing a sigh, slices cleanly through the stem of kindness, collapsing its effects. Clearly I am not being authentic in these moments. I like so much that Panera Pixie spoke with her body language too – leaning in, hurrying to help. Her entire vocabulary – spoken and demonstrated – was based on kindness and joy!
Kristen Strong says
This is a great reminder for me too, Kimberley. Thanks so much for sharing!
I hope Panera Pixie (Thanks, Kimberly ^) and her manager see this!!!!!!
Great column, Kirsten! Like Bev, I love ‘sarcasm is just pride in a cute skirt’ :).
Kindness is so important. We may never really know the impact that our words have on others. It’s better to be kind than right. Thank you for this post! I shared on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Great post! Not only kind words affect people, but so does our attitude. I’ve had to rein in a bad attitude on days when the traffic is too slow, or the person in front of you in the speedy check out lane has 25 items instead of 10. In the end, it does more harm to me than to the other person. Jesus was kind, loving and forgiving. We should set His example as our marker and allow the Lord to bless us as we bless others.
Thank-you, this was so refreshing, and I could picture it all as I read. And so it should be, kindness shouldn’t be overshadowed by the unkindness of others.
God is Light
1 John 1.5
Have a blessed day all,
This is a terrific post Kristen. My son could be that boy in Panera Bread, often in need of encouragement and a friendly smile. As a mama, I pray that he encounters our Lord through folks like this. These little things are huge to lonely people. Thank you for the wise words.
We have been encouraging our sister- in – law over 50 days as her husband contracted bacterial meningitis and has had a very long journey. It’s not always easy but we pray for the words and send her scriptures we have found about courage. Him having good days lifts our spirits and we know all of this will have a happy ending. Thank you for your post. I know we are doing the very thing that is needed.
Thank you for this, that we should work more towards being each other’s cheerleaders rather than tearing one another down because we think we’re right about something.
Recently went through a very stressful week of maddening computer issues, sinus headache, allergies, and an “unfriending”. This woman was offended by something I said (I didn’t think it was offensive, but it was how she took it matters.) I apologized, but she didn’t accept my apology, instead she belabored the point and invited other people to tell me how insensitive I was. she also accused me of doing something I didn’t do and wouldn’t back down even after presented with evidence to the contrary. I have to let this person go and keep telling myself that God loves her too and wish her all the best. Thanks for letting me vent!
Sarcasm is just pride in a cute skirt.
Best. Line. Ever.
Danielle Bernock says
Thank you for the encouragement. What a great thing to witness. Sometimes people rag on people like Anna saying their “perkiness” is annoying or claiming they’re fake. But she may have changed that boy’s life.
Love the quote you shared too – I tweeted it 🙂
– While shaming words can take courage out of a soul, encouraging and affirming words can put courage back in. –Scott Sauls, Befriend
Powerful words today! Yes, you are so right…..”shaming words take courage out of a soul, while affirming words place courage back in.” I work in a public school system and often witness the power of hurtful words (spoken from angry, overwhelmed parents, and exhausted, overworked colleagues). Each day, I ask the Lord to enable me to continue to be a light in a dark place and speak words of kindness to those I see each day. My grandmother used to always tell me as a little girl, “you may be the only Jesus someone ever sees.” I try to remember that truth every day….there are definitely days I fall way short of the mark, and I have to ask forgiveness and thank God for Grace. Thank you for this reminder today, Kristen.
I loved your comments Monica . Same here , you are dealing with kids and parents and I’m dealing with customers for 14 years in the retail food store where I works . I always shared that no matter what we do, just do it with all our hearts and keep being good to the people around us even to the strangers even though they’re not good to you ; For God knows our heart and will rewards us in due time . Though we cannot please everyone and thanks God for the daily grace that He had given to us . God grace is sufficient enough and His strength made perfect in our weaknesses. Amen ❤️
Remember each and everyone of us has a greater gift that God given to us. Therefore let us use it wisely.
Thank you Kristen for sharing this story with us and I am blessed in reading it❤️
Mary Palmer says
What a fantastic article!
Rebecca L Jones says
I’m the one on the receiving end of snarky. I am not a cheerleader but I try to (in) courage. There was a particular girl I saw on a regular basis, even my cousin recognized her when I called her Miss Perky, Perky. Was I jealous? I don’t think so. I was just not used to seeing perky on that scale. Later, I found out she had moved, her fiance had been murdered. I felt horrible. I know that must have taken the life out her, I pray she gets it back. Let’s share the kind words, stranger or not, His Word is spirit and life and will not return void.
Nancy Ruegg says
“Words give life.” That’s true for the person delivering the words as well as the recipient. There’s always an uplift after sharing a compliment or a word of encouragement with someone. Jesus’ promise, “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35), applies to words, not just gifts! Thank you, Kristen, for the delightful story of the Panera employee. She inspires me to serve up even more hope and good cheer with my words.
Beth Williams says
Wonderful story about Panera Pixie. I may not be that perky, but I do try to give encouragement all the time. It makes people feel much better. I often times go 1 step further and hug them. I want to show the world God’s love. For the last few years I visited my aging dad in assisted living facilities 4x weekly. Each time I would try to cheer the other residents up. Smile at them or say Hi. Sometimes a little hug would brighten their day. Just knowing someone cares is enough to make your day!