Good day, team.
This last challenge for 2013 is about finding grace and wisdom in the most unlikely places.
On a trip to California this week to visit a client, I found myself in a taxi at 4:45 in the morning en route to the airport. My taxi driver arrived right on time and greeted me with a broad smile as he took my bag and placed it in the trunk of the car.
Soon after leaving my home, we began to talk. Hearing his accent, I asked him where he was from. “Ethiopia,” he replied with a deep bass resonance in his voice. “Ahhh,” I replied. “I had a client once who is American but grew up there as the daughter of missionaries. She spoke very highly of your country and enjoyed her years there growing up.” And so our conversation continued about Ethiopia, his experience growing up there, the differences between his birthplace and America, etc.
We began to talk about the things that were most important to us as we were growing up. He spoke about always working at school and living in his small village with his family. He didn’t have much time for play as a kid and really didn’t have much time to enjoy the better parts of his culture. Ironically, now that he lives in the U.S., he makes an effort to meet with other Ethiopians to enjoy what bits of their native culture they can recreate here.
He talked about the differences between America and Ethiopia. As he put it, “Here, we all have food, a roof over our heads, a TV, a car, etc. It’s convenient. There, we had each other, and although it was primitive, there was much more connection between people. I took it for granted growing up. But not here. Here, I have to make time for the emotional connections I make with others.” I commented that I understood what he meant. I told him I had taken a year off to live in Italy when I was in my 30s, and that after being there a year, I observed that the Italians had created a daily routine that included about four to six events that allowed them to connect emotionally with each other ― early morning espresso at the coffee bar, midmorning cappuccino break, long lunches, drinks before dinner in the local square and dinner. We agreed that some cultures have foregone quality emotional interactions for efficiency.
As we pulled up to the curb at the airport, my driver turned to me with his bright eyes and big smile. “You know,” he said, “all people have that special something in them, that thing that’s so hard to describe but is always there. I call it love, and of all the things we have in this world, it’s the most precious. To have a good life, we have to share it.”
I smiled back at my Ethiopian messenger. He reminded me of something I read in the Bible as a child: “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Luke 12:40.
This week, listen to the messages of grace, love and wisdom that come to you, often from the least likely places. Maybe it’s your child whose words remind you of what’s most important in your life. Perhaps it’s the produce guy at the grocery store who comments about vegetables in a way that reminds you how connected we are to the earth. Or maybe it’s a team member whose humorous remark in a moment, reveals something true about you.
These words of wisdom can come from anyone. Whatever the message, see them as gifts that come to you along the way.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
Have a great holiday!
NOTE: The next coach’s challenge will be published Jan. 12, 2014.
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