“I’m not very smart”

I walked up to the counter today of my local wine shop and noticed there was a new face serving: a young man with a beaming smile, but obviously nervous and trying hard to do the right thing. He was on his own at the counter.

My purchases came to $22 and I handed him a $50 note. He was taking a while to collect the change from the till.

“It’s my first day,” he said.

“Don’t worry,” I replied. “Take your time.”

Eventually, he gave me my $28 change.

“I think the machine might tell you how much change to give,” I said, trying to be helpful.

“Oh yes, it does,” he replied. “But I’m not very smart.”

I started to say “Awww, I’m sure that’s not—”, and he shrugged, and said, “It’s OK,” as if to say “It is what it is”.

After wishing him a good afternoon, I left the shop, feeling sad for him. Not sad that it took him a while to count the change—he got there in the end. But sad that this young man goes through life thinking, “I’m not very smart”. He didn’t say it as I would: “I’m not good at numbers” or, “maths is not my strong point”, because I know I have others. He said it as a whole-life thing: “I’m not very smart”.

Now, children aren’t born thinking they’re not very smart. Somewhere along the line, he’s got this idea. Was it a parent, teacher, sibling, friend, bully…who gave him the idea that he is “not very smart”?

My friend and fellow blogger, Bryan Patterson at Faithworks, wrote a post this week on the different types of intelligence (read it here), and how it’s not an exact science. As I walked home today, I wanted to say to New Man at the Wine Shop:

1) You have a job—they picked you, which means you’re good;

2) You are kind, personable and helpful to the customers, without being overbearing. In my books, that makes you smarter than many people I know.

Good luck to him, and I hope that, someday soon, someone tells him he is smart.

5 thoughts on ““I’m not very smart”

  1. I wish I could tell him that he is kind and humble which beats intelligence in my book. Some of the smartest people in the world built the atomic bomb. How stupid is that? Imagine what kindness would have done instead.

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