I don’t always enjoy admitting that I’m wrong. Ask my husband, family, colleagues. Oh, they’ll tell you that I admit to being wrong, but that I do it reluctantly. Yes, I recognize that this isn’t the greatest sign of maturity, especially in relationships. But yesterday was a day in which I was proven to be wrong multiple times, and I cannot express how good it feels to have been wrong.
This week, I’m on the road in Idaho. (And yes, there are lots of potato fields. And, yes, all the potatoes I’ve seen look exactly like the potatoes you’ve seen.) My trip consists of meetings, meetings and more meetings. And I am one who enjoys meetings as long as they meet these criteria:
1. There is a stated purpose for the meeting.
2. Key players attend these meetings.
3. Time is used wisely, and the meeting starts and ends on time.
But I realized after the first meeting that things probably wouldn’t go according to my schedule. See, I tried to make “shop talk” the important part of the conversation whereas the key players wanted to know who I was, what brought me to this organization, what brought me to Idaho, etc… Their purpose was relationship. And I almost missed out on it because I was thinking about the clock and how out of whack my schedule might be.
As I rushed to the second meeting an hour away, I started rethinking my plans. Maybe I should ask the other individual what he or she would like to accomplish with the meeting. (Some of you are asking whether I have common sense at this point. Again, ask my husband, and he’ll tell you that the verdict is still out on that one.) When I got lost and called to ask for directions, I knew for sure I needed to throw out the plans when she told me that I’d gone too far if I passed up the goats.
As she ushered me into her house, I didn’t even get to introduce myself before she asked whether I could see well enough to fix her glasses for her. So that’s what I did while she made a cup of coffee for me. Twenty minutes into the meeting, we still hadn’t talked about anything related to the organization, mission and her volunteer efforts. We talked about how she was tearing down the wallpaper in her kitchen because “wallpaper is no longer in.” We talked about her kids and grandkids. She told me about the goats outside and how she was helping out a friend who needed a place for the goats to stay. She let me take pictures of the goats for my daughter, Lexi, who would get a kick out of knowing I got to see goats during my visit. And once we started talking about why I had come, I heard about this woman’s heart and love for the ministry and how she had taken the initiative to attend meetings with key members of her community to share the vision and her plan over the next months to contact the local media who had partnered with her before. Due to age and health, she may not volunteer as she once had, but I wouldn’t trade her for the world.
I didn’t want to leave her, but I had another meeting to get to and I was already late for it, but I didn’t feel anxious at all. I had planned to sit down during lunch to assess my notes, but realized that these meetings were teaching me something far greater than I had anticipated.
When I was ushered into the home of my next meeting, I thought about just playing hooky for the rest of the day. I had barely gotten my name out, before this little lady, who was pushing eighty, said, “I know you’ve traveled a distance and have a lot more driving to do and might miss lunch so I baked some bread when I heard you were coming.” She had spread out a nice tablecloth and cut me some thick slices of bread along with some homemade raspberry preserves. I protested that she didn’t have to do all of this, and all she said was, “This is an honor to have you come all this way to talk with me.”
I was so ashamed and humbled because I had thought about canceling this meeting with her because of how small the community was in which she lived and the decrease in volunteer activity over the past year. I had thought about how canceling this meeting would have allowed me to possibly meet with potential volunteers in a larger community.
I’m an idiot. Really, that’s all I can say. This lady put me to shame. I learned that she had been a school teacher growing up and that once she retired, she had still served as a vital mentor in the town for high school students who needed help with their various community projects. She showed me some of the student’s projects as well as ornate wooden dollhouses she was still assembling because of how much she loved working with her hands. When I asked her where she had learned this intense work ethic of hers, she said, “A world war tends to do that to you.”
Agendas, notes, punctuality-these do matter for some meetings, but not all. One of these days, I am going to get it right when it comes to relationships over tasks and agendas. For now, I’ll just enjoy getting it wrong, especially when it comes with homemade bread!