My 88-year-old mother and I drove to Chicago together the other day. Well, not really, but kind of really. I was in my car on I-65 north and she was in her home in Pittsburgh on the other end of the telephone. We talked non-stop for 1½ hours straight. We stopped only because I arrived at the meeting site, the reason for the trip to Chicago.
My mother and I are cut from the same cloth; even my identical twin brother is not quite the same as my mother and me. Every day, a new adventure in meeting strangers is ahead of me and Mom. We find pleasure in butting in. We find pleasure in listening in on others’ conversations and finding an opening to join in.
If we hear what we think is a Pittsburgh accent (when we are not in Pittsburgh), we ask what part of Pittsburgh they are from. We joke with waiters, doctors, flight attendants, you name it. We also drive our families crazy. They normally don’t like the way we are. We can’t help it. It’s a sickness. Maybe we should name our disease. What about Myobia? (Mind Your Own Business – ia).
That’s it: we have Myobia. It can be addictive.
Earlier this year, we traveled to Nashville for the IPI show. I wanted to have access to the loading dock, so I immediately insulted the attendant’s football team and made fun of his goofy hat. He scoffed at me and said, “You Northerners come down here and think the world of yourselves. You can get to the back of the line and wait forever, as much as I care.”
I looked at my passengers and said, “Don’t worry, he’s playing me back.”
After what seemed like an hour, the attendant belly-laughed (he had plenty of belly) and said, “I’m just messing with you. Park here, and we’ll take care of you.” He yelled to one of the guys on the dock, saying, “Whatever this guy needs, take care of him. He’s my friend.”
I couldn’t sleep on the plane the other night coming back from Atlanta on a very late flight. Why? Because after the flight attendant asked me to go to the airline’s website and say nice things about her (she referred to herself as a “Sky Goddess”), I said, that’s Delta.com, right? (I was flying Southwest.)
Why couldn’t I sleep? Because every time she walked by, she threw a bag of peanuts at me and woke me up.
It’s a curse. I just can’t shut up. If I do, I might miss an opportunity to make someone laugh and feel good about themselves. I can’t be quiet and take the risk.
Many of you are thinking, the risk is in talking, not being quiet. Not for Mom and me; the risk is in being quiet.
It doesn’t always work like you planned in your head, but it’s never wrong.
Some months ago, while working out of a Starbucks one morning, I couldn’t help but watch two high school boys dealing with what looked like a huge problem. Their countenances were so sad; they had fear and anxiety written all over their faces. One of them looked to be in big trouble.
My mind played out what it might be, and I concluded that one of the boys must have gotten his girlfriend pregnant. Having two adopted children from a similar scenario, I certainly could lend an ear and offer sage advice, and possibly help turn this into a positive, even in what appeared to be a dire situation.
I decided not to talk to them. Instead, I left the store. Standing on the sidewalk outside, I felt convicted to return as to not miss the opportunity to help.
I re-entered the store and approached the two boys, walked up and said, “Excuse me, fellas, I couldn’t help but notice that something is troubling you both. I don’t know either of you. I have no interest in judging you. I just want to offer some mature advice if you would care to share with me.”
One boy said simply, “Go to hell.” I completely kept my composure and walked back out of the store and into my day.
As I reflect on that moment, one might consider it a complete failure. I don’t. Had I not gone back, I would have regretted not talking to them. Now, I have no regrets at all.
Actually, I’m hoping that my mature and quiet response spoke into their hearts. I hope that they realize that a complete stranger cares for and values them. Perhaps in some subtle way, it penetrated a small crack in their hearts.
Success is not always measured by the results we expect. Nor is failure always failure, but actually success in a different wrapper!