Mixed Salad of Thoughts

Monday, January 11, 2010

Paradigm Shift

I learned the term "Paradigm Shift" when I read Steven Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" when I was around 16 years old. It has been lovely to note the times that my mind has suddenly found new perspective and, like a back-drop change in a theatrical play, I quickly adjust to a new setting.

Today I had a moment while talking to a customer that did that shift for me. It is a particularly cold day in Chicago and I'm battling a headache that started mid-day yesterday so the odds were stacked against my having a good day to begin with. I first went to return a defective Redbox movie and found the machine full. I then came in to work to a pile of emails questioning decisions I had made that made me upset with my boss. Finally I sat down to work on a pile of things and a customer came in.

This customer was an older lady with a cane. She began to tell me how she had come in to look at a sectional she saw in an advertisement (our cheapest piece and the only thing anyone seems to want to buy these days). She continued by telling me all of the newspapers she had seen it in and how she hadn't come in because of her health and how she was temporarily living in a rehab place but would be moving shortly. She told me how she had bought from us before and how she had told her daughter about us and that her daughter had bought. She was rambling a bit and due to sniffling and some slurred words I had a hard time understanding some of what she was saying. I listened quietly, if not all that patiently. I obviously didn't need the whole story of the last few years of her life to show her the sofa she was looking for and most of the information she was giving was not really relevant to her need for a sofa. But I've been doing this long enough to sound patient and sweet even when my head is pounding and I'm irritated. I told her a little about the store and showed her the piece and she continued telling me how she had looked at another piece months ago but that she really wanted this one and how nice all of our pieces are and how she had a daughter with the same name as the store. She mentioned her grandchildren and how well behaved they are and that she wouldn't need a sofabed because they would not stay over. I asked if she had a big family (as she obviously wanted to talk about them) and she said "No, not really," and told me again how much she wanted the sofa but that she'd have to go to the bank to get the deposit. Her thoughts were like this paragraph: long and jumbled with information. She asked me to calculate how much she'd have to put down and I went and did the calculations and wrote her a little sheet of paper with the name of the sofa, its dimensions and the deposit amount. She thanked me and told me I had the same name as one of her granddaughters...well, not her actual granddaughter...

"Because I adopted four of my children and I worked for human services so I fostered a lot of kids."

At this point I felt my brain swirl around and drop the new backdrop onto the stage. I have tremendous respect and love for people who adopt and foster and adopting FOUR kids is quite impressive. I suddenly wanted to treat this woman as my own grandmother, as a member of the family. I wasn't irritated with her talking so much as I wanted to know MORE. By the time she left she was introducing her husband to me and assuring me she'd be back to see me soon.

This all makes me wonder. How many people do we meet each day that might blow our minds with the depth of their spirit if only we dug a little below the surface?

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