It’s a question we all wrestle with, whether we are the customer or the business owner, the teacher or student, the politician or voter. Does faith have a place in the public arena, and how does that look for me and my business? There’s a reason it’s confusing. (And it’s not you!)
As I was thinking about it this week, I remembered a story from years ago, and how it impacted the way I live out my faith in business today.
Many, many moons ago, I went to a clinic for blood tests in the basement lab of a clinic. As I exited the elevator, and turned to head toward the lab, I suddenly felt compelled to talk to a woman who was seated in a nearby waiting area. I didn’t know her and didn’t understand why I would feel the need to talk to her, so proceeded to the lab instead.
After my appointment, as the door closed behind me, I felt strongly compelled to talk with that woman again. I decided that if the seat beside the woman would be vacant, I would sit and talk with her. As I rounded the corner, I noticed all the waiting room seats were full, including the one beside her.
I sighed relief. As I approached the elevator, the man seated beside her got up and left. There it was, and empty seat right beside this woman, just as I had reasoned. I sat down beside her, bewildered about why I was even there. I turned to look at her, and she dropped the bomb.
“I just found out I can’t have any more babies.”
She went on to explain that she had a child, but having another would be impossible. She was deeply sad – grieving! – that she would never have another. It was a deep pain I could understand well. I had also received the news that, two and a half years after my first child, I would not be able to have more. It was devastating news to a mama who thought she was just getting started with her family. I wanted five children. It was heartbreaking, and I had to mourn the loss of a life I would never have. I didn’t know exactly how she felt – we all have different expectations and circumstances – but I could sure understand the pain.
Beyond the pain, she also felt guilty for feeling sad. “I know I should appreciate the one I have…”
“You do.” I reassured her, “Just because you’re grieving doesn’t mean you’re not grateful.”
She became quiet, and let the words sink in. Then she nodded and turned to me with glistening eyes, “Yeah. You’re right. I do!” She seemed relieved – freed to grieve without guilt. To share that common experience and encourage her in her sorrow was clearly the reason I was meant to sit beside her.
On the drive home, I thought about our encounter and realized that living out my faith is quite simple. It doesn’t necessarily require speaking Jesus’ name in every statement or to every person. It’s speaking love and truth and life into people’s life that is relevant. Seeing an unmet need and making an effort to meet that need. It’s that simple.
The beautiful thing about faith though, is that it’s not a formula or set of rules. It’s relationship, so it’s different for each person. A person has a different relationship with their spouse than with their children, and each of those is different from the relationships with friends or their insurance broker. Each relationship will look different, have different expectations and even customized vocabulary or behaviors.
For me, I’ve understood my path in business is to simply meet a need and cultivate relationship– to love and live out the character and principles that come from walking in the Spirit. For others, living faith may be a more obvious or out-loud kind of path. I think the important thing to remember is that we are each responsible for ourselves in front of God, and can’t pass judgment on each other’s paths.
Faith is just that personal, and God is way more brilliant and mysterious than to use all people in the same way.
Do you wonder how living out faith in business should look for you? What’s one way you live out your faith at work?
Years ago when my daughter was little, we would use a vaporizer to help relieve coughs and congestion. The first time I set up the vaporizer to make the bedroom steamy she raised a finger to touch the steam flowing out of the machine.
“Don’t touch the steam – it’s hot!”
She quickly took back her little hand, “Okay mum.” I left the room. Twenty seconds later, her scream shot through the house. I ran to her side.
She had taken my advice, and not touched the steam… with her hand anyway. Instead, she had sat on the vaporizer, the poor thing. And she had a great big blister for her efforts.
(Don’t worry, she survived and is all grown up and just fine.)
Being a REALTOR® is a lot like being a mom, I’ve noticed. As a caring guide, I want the best for my child (or client), and work to protect her and help her avoid consequences of poor decisions. In the end though, it’s still her call. And it’s not as though the caring stops after a poor choice either –it often requires more work, like emergency response and damage control.
I’ve seen real estate deals – mine and others’ – fall apart for lots of reasons. Some were unfortunate happenstance, like unexpected job loss, but others – most, actually – were the direct result of dumb decisions. I can warn, advise, guide, and equip clients so they can make the most informed decision possible… but the decision is ultimately theirs. Like a mom, I can advise and then watch them do what they do.
One client listed with me, asking me to please give him feedback and guidance so he can adjust course for a great result. This guy’s smart, and wants to base his decision on professional fact-based intel.
These are the ones you dream of.
Many others are like the eighty some year old man I once house shopped with. He had been a real estate investor decades before. When he saw a house priced under $100K – less than half of the average price for its size – he couldn’t believe it. “Who on earth will pay such a high price!?”
“Actually, this is a low price for its size. You can’t get houses for less around here.”
“Aw, sure you can!”
What was he basing that on? Opinion. And a severely outdated one at that. Back in the 1970’s sure, $100K would have been a high price for that house. He may have known the market well at one time, but is now out of touch. And here’s the kicker – he doesn’t know it, and doesn’t care. I keep my finger to the pulse of the market, current up to the week – not month or season, the week. Still, he guffawed current, professional, factual intel. He knows what he knows. The end.
Remind you of anyone? A stubborn child with hands over his ears perhaps?
Luckily, motherhood has trained me well.
The toughest thing about it is watching. Buyers and sellers have the right to make their decisions. I completely respect that, and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s just hard to watch them suffer, especially when it’s so avoidable.
I can wave warning signs, jump up and down crying, “NOOO! Not that way!! You’ll go bankrupt!!” But that’s all I can do. The rest is up to them. Bankruptcy, family splits, and loads of heartache can be the fallout. I’ve seen it.
I approach my job the way I approach parenting. I care. The advice I give is for their benefit, not mine. I’ll give them guidance, equip them with everything they need (including feedback from buyers and other agents), to make an informed decision. REALTORS® care – that’s why we coach. It’s why I’ll sit with a client for an hour and half and talk before we go shopping. As with parenting, the advice given is for the client’s benefit.
I respect that clients (and children) are ultimately the ones who make their own decisions, and it’s not on me. I’m not the one who will suffer the consequence, I can only tell them what the consequence will be. I really, really don’t want people to suffer loss and damage. That’s why I work so hard to be Attentive From Sign Up to Sign Down®. It’s why I coach people through the process. It’s why I started doing this job in the first place!
When you find that one perfect summer spot that helps you escape it all, you will find yourself returning. I found that spot almost twenty years ago. My daughter was seven or eight when a single mom friend of mine invited us on a camping trip. I hadn’t been able to justify time off or a vacation as a single parent. When I realized I could buy a tent for the price of one night in a hotel room I was committed. Besides, I could use it over and over again. All I needed was a park pass, to rent a campsite, and the gas to get there. Back then $15.00 filled my Chevy Sprint and I could drive a month on a tank. Economical. That was what convinced me to go the first time.
Grand Beach was our destination. Our children played. We ladies chatted. We took turns cooking. Most of all we just loved hanging out at the beach. We started to go every year. Always a memorable time.
After I married Wendell in 2002, we insisted on going back. We used to go the first week of July. It was a bit of a way of celebrating birthdays. My daughter’s birthday is June 29 and mine on July 5. The sun always shines that week. My daughter would bring a friend and off we would go to have a good time. Till the last time. Mama bear and her cubs came through our campsite and that was the last of camping as we knew it. No more sleeping in tents for us.
Last year I was offered an amazing opportunity. I did an opinion of value for a few places in Grand beach. As payment I was offered cash or a few nights at a cottage I had evaluated. That was a no brainer choice. I responded whole heartedly with a YES to the cottage. Since I started real estate in 2010 I had not been on vacation with my husband. I had not even had a day off! I found some trustworthy people to look after business on my behalf and Wendell and I went to the cottage and we’re delighted that my daughter Jerica was able to join us. We had such a great time that I booked the cottage in advance for a week this summer.
I just returned from a memorable week at Grand Beach. I felt happy. Watching young children playing in the sand and water the way my daughter did as a child filled me with happy memories and put many smiles on my face. Watching the teenage girls reminded me of the summers that I took teenage foster girls with me to this very beach. We had amazing weather. We had a windy day where we played like children in the waves. We had leisure time laying in the hot sun. We went on walks every day along the shore line. Most of all we just enjoyed each other’s company in a relaxing environment. Wendell is my best friend and I find him so easy to be with.
While we were there I was notified that my cousin had passed away at 43 years of age. I was glad for some quiet time to reflect, to pray for the family, and consider priorities in my own life.
In my absence, I left my business to my partner and friend Eniko Crozier. I was only gone 5 days. I had a listing coming up and she was to list it while I was away. The seller had confidence in her because I do. But upon my return I find out that she listed three properties in my absence! Aside from showing listings, showing homes to buyers, and getting a SOLD sign put up on my co-list with Yvette Kent, she took my calls and emails so I could relax.
I feel blessed. Truly blessed. Personally. In business. I truly enjoy my career. I truly enjoy having time at home with my husband. Now I can truly have work be uninterrupted when I take a break. Thank you Eniko. I appreciate you and so will each of my clients. You work hard and I want you to be blessed all the days of your life.
(Picture from my flower garden)
This week I’m celebrating my one-year anniversary! It’s been one glorious year since I had my first scheduled day off. That might sound weird to some people, but self-employed people know how difficult it can be to not work when people expect you to.
It’s been an adjustment, but I don’t plan to go back! I went from doing it all on my own to joining a team of professionals, to customizing my own team with Eniko as my right hand woman.
It’s sometimes a challenge to share work with a team mate when I’m perfectly capable of doing it. I’ve done it on my own for so long, I’m used to just doing… everything! But it’s getting easier to share the load – and what a brilliant invention team work is! We can each operate in our strengths, and get help with the things we’re terrible at, or just hate doing.
Probably the biggest adjustment has been letting go of the pride of being busy. We tend to wear busyness like a badge of honor. As an eager, goal-oriented person, it’s tough for me to sit still sometimes.
It helped to read a blog lately, where Tyler Ward said, “Busy isn’t respectable anymore”. I was challenged by that, but also relieved. Being overly busy is not the accolade it once was – now it’s seen more as an inability to manage time, or a self-control issue. (are you squirming? I was!)
So I’ve been intentionally working toward a lifestyle of less busy.
I don’t respond like a paramedic anymore, just because someone calls. Sometimes I’m at a wedding or a funeral, and that’s okay.
Working with a partner frees me to take a day off, so I use it to garden, go to the beach, do housework(groan), or whatever I feel like. I try very hard not to use it for working!
I also make a point to put everything aside when hubby gets home, so I can give him my undivided attention for a while. It’s my way of loving and honoring him, and it doesn’t cost anything. Just setting myself aside for an hour? I can do that.
As I practice these, I find my stress level has dropped considerably. I also find it easier to be in the moment, enjoying wherever I am, even if it’s an open house in the middle of a thunderstorm.
I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store! …How do you avoid the busy badge?