"I Talk to People All Day."
Last week, a mutual friend introduced me to a disabled veteran who makes leather goods. Every day, he displays his handiwork at a small table in the cafeteria at the VA clinic.
As we introduced ourselves, I explained who I was by saying, “I drive the van,” and he explained who he was by saying, “I talk to people all day.” "That’s important,” I replied.
“Interesting,” I thought, “he is a companion, not a craftsman or a merchant or a veteran.” My explanation seemed pretty pedestrian and superficial, compared to his explanation.
It reminded me of my daughter’s first job interview, many years ago:
Restaurant Manager: “What is the primary responsibility of a hostess?”
Everyone Else: “Fold napkins, monitor tables, refill mints, seat customers, etc….”
Astute Daughter: “Make a good first impression.”
She got the job.
Unfortunately, for most of the time that I drove a van or raised a family or sold the bonds, I lacked the insight to see that I was called to a larger role (companion or friend or teacher) which overshadowed my more mundane responsibility (driving or parenting or working).
Every day, I watch my new friend, and I realize that he is more of a listener than a talker. (That’s really important, even more important than talking.)
On a conference call or a trading floor, if you ask how folks are doing, everyone is “fine,” but at a childrens hospital or a VA clinic, everyone is decidedly NOT “fine.”
In the next few posts, I’ll have more to say about talking and about listening.