Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Memories of Grace

A few years back I volunteered for a year as a respite person for Hospice, and was given the most beautiful patient. Often volunteers are only able to know a patient for one or two visits, but "my" elderly gentleman, Mr P, was a twice-a-week blessing for over four months! We became dear friends, and I was blessed by the most graceful person I have met to date. 

He had lived full-time in bed for the three years prior to my meeting him. His body was curled and in constant pain from rheumatoid arthritis. He could not hold a pen or a spoon. He was on very strong pain medication through a drip line and patches. All of his bodily needs were taken care of by his wife and the hospice caretakers. One would understand if this man was bitter, frustrated and suffered bouts of self-pity. And I never heard him utter a negative word. 

 He lived in a world that was so filled with God. He adored his wife, children and grandchildren. He was so grateful to God for all he had experienced in his life, for his work, his years as a Scout Leader, for the sunshine through his window, for each person who came to his home. Each time I would visit his first words were, "How are you feeling? How is your husband?" I spent time alone with his wife and inquired, "Is he always this kind and positive? Her eyes gleamed with her love for him, "Yes," she told me, "and he has always been this way. God shines from him, doesn't He?"

Mr P decided he was going to walk before he died. Since it was so easy to tear his fragile skin just by shifting him a few times a day, and his pressure sores were constantly in a state of healing, the RN, counselor, home health care workers and ministers (yes, BOTH ministers adopted him!) and I that made up his team all wondered how that could happen and prayed it could be so. 

The day before he let go he rallied from his almost full-time sleep of the prior week (as often happens at the end) and asked his wife and the nurse to sit him up on the edge of his bed. It took a long time, but they very carefully and gently did so and he touched his feet to the floor for the first time in years. Tears were pouring down all three of their faces with the effort, the pain and his amazing determination. He was beaming with joy. It was his final walk. 

He stepped out of his body and into what he KNEW were Jesus' loving arms as he slept that night. There is absolutely no question in my mind he was greeted by his loved ones saying Hello, and that his laughter that was so contagious in life continues to bubble and expand in many peoples' memories and wherever his spirit now resides.

May I have even half of the grace that you showed me was possible, Mr P, when it is my turn to pass over. Fly free dear friend.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's in our Nature

So here we are in beautiful, gentle Ontario Canada. Having grown up in the U.S., with friends and family who hunt and target shoot, having guns around seems the norm. Although I admit, I prefer the underlying softness of the culture here, and am much more comfortable knowing that there are far fewer weapons being carried by the general public. American news reports are filled with such violence that a number of years ago I made the decision to stop watching and reading it, not feeling the need to have yesterday's shootings broadcast into my brain in lurid detail. It's odd then, that yesterday at the park where we walk our golden retriever Porter, we ran into a pack of some of the world's most aggressive dog breeds. This young man (luckily, a very strong Alpha type) had two Argentinian Mastiffs (huge short haired white dogs, one with his ears cropped), two cane corsos, also known as the Italian Mastiff, a German Shepherd and an American pit bull terrier. I had read when moving here that pit bulls weren't allowed in Ontario, however it seems there is a grandfather clause. We approached the pack as we do all, asking whether the dogs were friendly. Yes, as long as Porter wasn't aggressive. They circled around, all seemingly fine, sniffing and getting to know each other as dogs do. We spoke with the owners for a little bit, learning about these powerful dogs, keeping a close eye on them all. Next thing you know, the pit bull -- smallest of the pack -- started a fight with Porter and the owner jumped in, grabbed his dog by the neck and lifted him off the ground, hanging his dog, its back to his chest. Terrifying. Porter was fine, as it was quick and mostly noise, typical of a "I'm higher in the pecking order than you" dog tussle. The difference was, this was with a very scary looking pit bull. Once the pit calmed down (how could he not, hanging from his neck like that?) the owner put him in a "sit" and leaned over him, intimidating, keeping him there. Porter came immediately to me, then danced around, sniffed somemore, went over to the young man almost as if to thank him, giving deference to the Alpha, and we went on our way. It made me wonder... why would this young man choose these breeds of dogs? And thank God he did, but, knowing how often people get bit in dog fights, why would he step right into that one and haul his dog off? Is risking getting bit the only way he could stop his dog from hurting or killing another? What is it that attracted this person to owning and being able to control these large, muscular, loyally protective beasts? Especially here. In gentle non-aggressive Canada....

Friday, April 10, 2009

Win Win?

How spoiled I've been, working with kind win-win Realtors, clients and vendors. And how sharp is the juxtaposition of their opposition. When I was changing careers from massage therapy to real estate, a number of my fabulous clients and friends -- those who knew me well, or who had had a less-than-gentle experience -- warned me. "It's a cutthroat business. Your sensitive heart will get broken." And oh how I have learned. Six years of learning. The real estate business is many things. Difficult, expensive, exciting, occasionally completely fulfilling, frustrating and intense.

I was absolutely blessed to have found, immediately after obtaining my license, THE most incredible company to work for. Keller Williams is known in the industry as various woo-woo titles... a pyramid scheme (because of its brilliant profit sharing plan), a cult (because the values are truly spiritual, garnering fierce loyalty), and it was absolutely the right fit for me. Working in an environment of kind people committed to learning and service, I was surrounded by a culture that nurtured each member and was dedicated to teaching every newbie to succeed. Along the way I saw its dark side as well... as in every business there are sometimes personalities that climb their way to the top with ugly power ploys. As is my wont, I did my best to avoid the political gossip.

Not long after joining KW, I was introduced to a fantastic coaching group: Buffini and Company. Brian Buffini is a second generation Irish gent, self-made multi-millionaire who teaches with delightful wit and warmth. His message is simple and also completely resonated with my values: serve the people you know and care about. Stay in contact, add value to their lives, and ask them for referrals. Then treat them like family and totally exceed their expectations. So that is what I did.

"Thick skin is required" really ought to be a loud part of the pre-licensing program. Granted, the friends and family who hired me (and the friends-of-friends-and-family) were all exactly the kind of people I wanted to work with: smart, reasonable, and also dedicated to win-win. The heartbreaks came regularly though.... People whom I love and know I would serve well chose -- for many different reasons -- to buy and sell with others. People who had told me they would work with me should they ever decide to purchase a home, I heard had not. Ow and ow and ow again.

Then there were my fellow Realtors outside my home office... those working with the clients on "the other side" of the deals. I was actually most nervous about them, and discovered my fears were usually unfounded. Yes, they were representing the "other" party, however, with only a few exceptions, they were also dedicated to a positive and successful experience. The notable exceptions left a nasty taste in my and my clients' mouths and I thank God I am not living out their karma. How some people's children sleep at night is beyond me.

Probably the most difficult lesson I've learned in this business is this:

No matter where the real estate "cycle" is, some people are going to Win, and some are going to Lose.

In a Buyer's market like we're in today, there are tons of homes to choose from, values are plummeting, and Sellers watch their "on paper equity" diminish every day. When that Seller is your friend and you are trying to help them sell their home, being the bearer of market statistics is No Fun. Even worse is bringing them low-ball offers on their already lowered priced property. Buyers win big time buying at or near the bottom of the market.

When in a Seller's market, the pendulum swings. Lowered inventory soars prices, homes bring in over-asking-price and multiple competing offers. Those lucky enough to be in the Seller's seat win. Buyers shop and offer, shop and offer and often spend months "losing" homes to other more qualified or wealthy folks. The search becomes desperate and their eventual purchase at the top of the market may cost them thousands of dollars to sell a few years later.

Representing good people in a win-lose business in a win-win manner is a giant challenge, and for my thin-skinned nature perhaps too much. As my fantastic mentors and brokers would say when hearing yet another "No"....... "Next!"