“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.