Friday, March 18, 2011

A Lesson Comes Home to Roost!

I've been doing a lot of "deep, spiritual reading."  You know, the kind of stuff that challenges you to look at life and yourself differently.  The book I am currently reading includes this parable by Coelho:

Once upon a time there was an inn called The Silver Star. The innkeeper was unable to make both ends meet even though he did his very best to draw customers by making the inn comfortable, the service cordial and the prices reasonable. So in despair he consulted a Sage.

After listening to his tale of woe the Sage said, “It is very simple. You must change the name of your inn.”
 “Impossible!” said the innkeeper. “It has been The Silver Star for generations and is well known all over the country.”
 “No,” said the Sage firmly, “You must now call it The Five Bells and have a row of six bells hanging at the entrance.”

“Six bells? But that’s absurd. What good would that do?”

“Give it a try and see,” said the Sage with a smile.

Well, the innkeeper gave it a try. And this is what he saw. Every traveler who passed by the inn walked in to point out the mistake, each one believing that no one else had noticed it. Once inside, they were impressed by the cordiality of the service and stayed on to refresh themselves, thereby providing the innkeeper with the fortune that he had been seeking in vain for so long.

The parable really hit home for me.  One of the gripes I've had about my job is that I seem to have an abundance of well-meaning volunteers and visitors who seem to enjoy pointing out mistakes made around the center - real and imagined.  I know these folks are not being malicious and think they're a help to me, but I haven't always been gracious in receiving the criticism.

Today, I had a volunteer who went through every copy of a particular publication in our gift shop to make sure they had all been corrected. (She had pointed out a mistake when the publication was unveiled last month.)  Sure enough, she found a handful of copies that hadn't been fixed....  and I didn't handle the situation as well as I should have.  Now, an hour after the volunteer has left, I am not too proud of myself. I have been reminded of the parable I had read earlier in the week.

As the parable above illustrates, people LOVE to point out the mistakes of others.  It's human nature.  I should be seeing the "mistake finders" in my life as blessings in disguise instead of letting my hard-headed ego see them as a pain in the rear end. These folks keep me humble and in their own way are helping me to do better in my job.

Who knows?  At some point I may even find a way to use these experiences to the advantage of the center, just as the inn keeper in the fable did!

My vow to myself from here on out is to be patient and loving with the mistake finders, and to show appreciation when they take the time to help me out.


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