Sunday, September 16, 2012

My First Solo Mission

This past Friday, I had the experience of doing my first appraisal clinics representing my company, Turn of the Century Antiques. I was honored to be asked and I have been doing these fairs for many years but this was my first one alone. It was a daunting thought to walk in this room and be a person of "expertise" for the hundreds of unknown objects in the room. Professionally, it was one of my best days I have had. It really helped me realize my potential. I knew something about everything that was brought before me and I really enjoyed providing insight to these people about their treasures. It was a busy day - I had back to back appointments from when I started at noon until 7pm - in fact I ran 20 minutes over and I only stopped for brief 5 minute spurts to chug down some energy drinks and grab a bite to eat.

One of my favorite appointments was a sweet elder man named Carl. He was my second of the day. He gently came up to my table and sat down. The first thing I do with everyone is make eye contact and smile and ask them their name. This is an emotional process for a lot of people and being warm and welcome right off makes them feel a lot more at ease. I asked Carl what he had today. It was a Selb painted German bowl - common - but I asked as I always do before I give any insight into the piece what he could tell me about it. When I asked him this, there was a couple beats and he finally said, "This belonged to Carol". His eyes welled up with tears and I put my hand on his arm and asked him to share about Carol if he wanted to. Carol and Carl had been married for 55 years and she was the love of his life. He said that when he met her in high school, he said, "I'm gonna marry you!" and he did. I could feel the pure love and emotion as he spoke. It rocked me and as I sat there and took this in, I quickly realized that this whole experience meant more to Carl than finding out about that little painted bowl. That bowl sitting in front of us was a simple representation of a beautiful life shared between two people.

This was a good reminder for me and I was glad that it happened so early on in the day. Often times in my store, people come in, one after another with boxes and boxes of junk and I have to stop my important work on the computer to sift through it - and I get annoyed. I always try and stay very present but I know there have been some times when I wasn't as gentle as I could have been. 

The rest of the day, I spoke and looked at everyone and their pieces with integrity and purpose. I listened to what they had to say. People actually switched their appointments from some of the other appraisers to myself because I gained a reputation in the room for "being nice". It was amazing that they didn't really care about the monetary value of their treasures. Most things came with a provenance and deep sentimental attachment. 

As you guys know, I love making money, sealing a deal, talking about the bottom line but in life and love, there is no bottom line. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring. One of the things I have to remember in my industry and what I continually remind myself is to really try to be kind to everyone that comes in the store - because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. Everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something. Remembering this is easier said than done because some of the people are real nut jobs that stress me out to no end but the thing that motivates me is that when I walked in that appraisal room that day, I was fighting some battles. Everyone is in some way. My battles seemed less stressful when I got the satisfaction of making someone else's day better. My problems seemed to slowly vanish as I helped the people in the room.

As I grow in my craft, I will carry this day with me forever and I am thankful for the experience. I am never going to forget Carl and his wife Carol and her German painted dish and the sentiment that it held. When someone walks in with a "piece of junk" - that piece of junk could hold an ocean of memories and that is important. This whole experience makes me remember one of my favorite quotes about life:

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong.  Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.  ~ George Washington Carver

My most fulfilling experiences are ones I do just to do - not for attention or Facebook. It's the stuff that sticks with us the rest of our lives - the fabric that binds us together as a humanity. Our experiences shape who we are and who we want to become. We are always evolving. 

It reminds me what life is about: life is about love. It's about who you love but more importantly, it's about how you love. 



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