Sometimes we are the teachers, sometimes we are the students but to me the best times are when we are both. As a wise person taught me many years ago, we have two ears but only one mouth so we should make it a point to listen twice as much as we talk. If we do that, we can discover that there is so much to learn in and from life and those around us.
Years ago, when working at a health food store, I met an interesting man. He smelled of a mixture of what seemed to me to be pipe tobacco (very sweet blend) and a machine shop. He wanted a container of freshly ground peanut butter and we were happy to oblige. He spoke of how much healthier this was than the jarred stuff that was packed with extra oils, preservatives, etc. If it was not sweet enough for you, he suggested simply adding farm fresh honey. I swear I never tasted a peanut butter sandwich so fresh and delicious. To look at him he would not be your first choice for health advice: well worn and stained hands that held deep cracks and splits, a beard that appeared to have had little contact with scissors and would not know what a razor was. He also had well worn clothes. He spoke of an undying love of his mother, who he continued to live with and take care of well past the year’s most of us move on (then again, Nana, my mom still lives with us, or is it we still live with her? Who knows and who cares whose name is on the deed).
People talk about what makes a good person. Sure some pick out the bazzillionaires that occasionally write out a big check to their pet project and while those checks are greatly needed, there is so much more to being a good person. I can’t speak for financial riches, nor can I speak of big checks as I have never experienced either but I have been blessed with good people. For that I will always be thankful.
I was at a meeting a while ago and the person running it asked me what my worth was. I replied that “I try to always leave things better than I found them.” He was not amused and asked what my net worth was; he was interested in and defined one’s value by the amount of assets one had. Now, to be honest, I knew what he was getting at but I didn’t think it was any of his business and I honestly don’t know. I’m not a money guy and hope to never be. When pressed I said “I’ll tell ya what, you know that expression about not having a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out? Well, I’ve got the pot and the window and that’s really what concerns me most. I’m not concerned with nor do I value someone by the money they have. Hell, in my experience, those that have the least have tended to give the most…” It was about that time that I excused myself; this was not my crowd.
If I had a million dollars (sorry if I got that barenaked ladies song in your head) I’d likely donate it to the charity I founded and we’d do some really nice things with it. We’d finish the unfinished offices, get that septic system installed so we could open the community kitchen and we’d buy ourselves a nice but older farm sized tractor with a front scoop and backhoe attachment. Nothing too fancy but something that could help us clear the fields, dig the septic and improve the trails as well as do other projects. We may hire a helper as well; there is always a need for more hands. What we wouldn’t do however is ask what our new worth is.
Sometimes folks can be like the moth, easily transfixed by a flash of light, that something sparkly that entertains us to the point of peril. How many moths have met their demise because they focused on the lights and not on the swatter? As people we can tend to get overly involved with our electronic devices even at our own peril. This past weekend I was nearly hit by a few different cars that motored into my lane while they were texting or surfing on their phones. One did not even look up when the horn sang loudly.
In our word of therapy, more and more I see counsellors getting into the latest invention or technique for counselling, some of which cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some are going to get trained by self-described XXXXXX masters who will teach their “secrets” to you for the “small price” that is more than I paid for my last few cars (I’m cheap when I buy cars, but still). Sure the certificates are printed at home on their own computer but the PDF workmanship is amazing…
As for me, well call me old fashioned but while I love to research and write and to stay up on the latest and greatest, I am never the moth. I can’t offer my clients the latest “light therapy” that syncs to their favorite music. Nor can I serve them a latte, match my office scent to the emotion they are seeking to embrace and sorry, but you will not find a warmed towel unless it is currently sitting on top of a leaking radiator on one of our tractors. What I can offer you in an attentive ear, an inquisitive mind, a humble but learned opinion and the compassion that will help you feel connected in the moment with another soul.
My leather couch has seen fancier days and the French doors on my office sport a skeleton key lock and lace curtains. My car park is compressed gravel and there are signs of post and beam construction in my walls and hand forged nails in some of my molding. We may sit in the office for our session or roam the many acres of woodlands, fields, or sit by the brook. Nothing high tech to be sure but soothing and grounded.
Years ago, I was working on an old car and was stuck on how to repair it without a super fancy electronic device. I toiled for hours, days, all to no avail. Finally, I spoke to a man with a thick French accent who knew more about cars than any trained mechanics I’ve ever met. I shared my frustration and feeling it was hopeless unless I could rent that machine. He offered to take a look. He said he knew how to fix it and he had the proper tools. I was very appreciative and we set a time to meet.
A week or so passed and he showed up at my driveway just as he said he would. He had an old beater truck that looked like it never knew an easy day. Every panel on that van had a story it could tell. It was something to see but ran like a top. He opened the side door and reached in for his tools. I was imagining this great piece of high tech equipment but instead he pulled out a hand made tool caddie and a coffee can or two that had been fitted with a copper wire handle. My heart sank and I thought he was a nice man but had wasted my time. He pulled out a few basic hand tools and asked me to start her up. As it ran I asked him what he thought and he replied “I don’t know. She hasn’t told me yet. We need to listen…” (His voice trailing off). Alone with the silence of the world other than that poorly running engine, he set about making many an adjustment until finally he looked at me with a big grin and said “let’s try her out.”
Driving, we talked a bit but also listened to the engine as it sang its humble song. He had fixed it! He didn’t use anything fancy, just an attentive ear, a few basic tools, a learned mind and the compassion necessary to want to help his fellow man. He left without payment, having refused my attempts. Packing his tin cans and homemade caddie he got into his panel van and headed home. I have no idea what his financial net worth is but he is among the richest men I know.
Sometimes it’s the little things…
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA