Every Sunday, I get all my chores and errands done in the morning, then head down to Burlington to join my Dad for lunch. I swoop by Lakeshore Place, his Senior’s Residence, grab him and we’re out of there for the afternoon. Anyone who has spent time with my father knows he is quite special. My friend Bonnie tells me she has to study up on the news before she joins us for lunch, because my father’s grasp of politics, social issues and pretty much everything is beyond most of our current civilization’s capabilities. I am so very lucky to spend time with him.
Our tradition is to go to Quizno’s where our friend Sarah works. Sarah used to be a server at Lakeshore Place, but now works as a dental hygienist…except on Sundays when she works at Quizno’s. We walk in to the sandwich shop and Sarah greets us with a grin and a “Hi Mr. Gesner, Hi Sue!” regardless of how busy it might be. Other customers just stare at us, but we simply grin back.
If the shop isn’t too busy, Sarah will come from behind the counter and join us while we eat. She’s always interested in my father’s life, what he is reading, who he has talked to from the Senior’s Residence, and how he is doing. She makes our little lunch circle complete, and we love visiting with her.
Usually, I just accept that Sarah is part of our lives and Sunday tradition. But this Sunday, I looked at the situation through a different set of eyes. Sarah is 23, young enough to be my daughter. On Sundays, when she looks up from behind the counter, she sees me, an older woman the age of her mother, juggle with the heavy doors while assisting a tall, elderly, frail gentleman. She doesn’t know much about our history, she doesn’t know the rest of our family; she just sees the two of us when we are in her restaurant. She sees our joy at being together, and shares our comfortable conversation.
What is interesting is what she doesn’t see. She doesn’t see my father as an old, frail man. She sees him as someone who struck up conversation with her when she worked at Lakeshore Place and became her friend. She doesn’t see me as an older woman, but rather she sees me as a new friend. Through her eyes, we are not what we appear to others. We are just as special to her as she is to us.
What does that have to do with the business world? Everything. In business, in consulting, we too often look at things through eyes that have seen the same things over and over…been there, done that. New projects are not new, but rather retrofitted versions of the old. We look at things through the same set of eyes, and we forget to look beyond the obvious, or what we see at first glance. In doing so, we can miss so many little things…and so many big things as well.
Sarah has taught me to look past the obvious. I am sure she sees my Dad’s grey hair and cane, and the lines on my face. But she focuses on my father’s smile and feels the hug I give her. Those are more important to her than what we may appear to be. My challenge for myself will be to continually see the world through Sarah’s eyes. My 23-year-old mentor has taught me well.