Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Having Heart

I was in the store to buy a digital recorder after thinking about it for some time. On the day I finally decided to buy it, I walked around the store several times like a hamster on some invisible treadmill, but couldn't for the life of me find the section where they were.

I looked for a salesperson to help me. Staff were pretty scarce and the ones I spotted all seemed very absorbed in something other than helping customers. I noticed that as I approached, they avoided eye contact and kept their heads down, not looking up, which would be the natural thing to do when someone approaches. They all looked like students who didn't want to get called on in class.

I did eventually make eye contact with a salesperson--and she turned out to be kind and helpful, but when I thought about the body language of the others I had an uncomfortable feeling. Was I like that sometimes too? I hated to admit it, but the truth was that I could be.

A short while ago we had a German guest staying in our home while furthering her studies. She was here to spend time in the agency I work for and learn how the service system for people with disabilities works in Ontario. In between parts of her itinerary she spent time with me, just hanging out quietly in my office as I went about my normal day. On one particular day I was very busy. There was one important phone call after another and in between I was trying to answer the most urgent emails.

While I was on the phone there was a knock at my door. It was someone we support, who I'd helped work through some painful issues that morning. I'd taken the time then, but now I was immersed in other things and on the phone. I excused myself from the phone long enough to say that I would see her later.

It was an hour or so later when I finally looked at my watch and realized that I had to get out of there! I locked my file cabinet, turned off the computer and began gathering my bags together.

"Oh, remember that lady wanted to talk to you," said our guest.

I quickly said, "Oh, she'll be ok. I'll see her tomorrow, I have to get home," and continued with my packing up for the day.

But I couldn't shake the thought of my friends' watching eyes. Her words had pricked my conscience. In that moment I was teaching her something about myself--something I didn't want her to go away with--that I didn't value people--not enough to keep my word about "later" anyway.

So I went upstairs and knocked at the door and surprised the person who'd been at the door and who was now feeling fine!

Seeing yourself through someone else's eyes is an interesting experience. That one incident made me think. If she hadn't been there I would have left. I would have broken my word without thinking, assuming that the woman at the door would have forgotten. The fact that she had, didn't matter. It's a matter of heart--of integrity.

Our guest had told me that she was "on her way" to God. In that moment what bothered me the most was that I wasn't reflecting him very well.

I'm trying hard to reflect him better lately. To do a better job of "being in the moment" with people and not looking like a salesperson who hasn't been trained well in customer service.

1 comment:

Dave Hingsburger said...

Belinda, I read a lot of disability oriented blogs and I want to tell you that this is one of the best posts I've ever read about disability and our relationship to those in care. The casualness with which we treat the needs of others, the misplaced motivation for doing the right thing, I'm keeping a copy of this post. Brilliant. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Can you tell that this one really got me ... deeply.