July 27, 2010 // Uncategorized

Learning to make things happen

I really, really want a set of encyclopedias! I thought this over and over as we were about to embark on homeschooling. It was the beginning of summer and we’d start homeschooling in the fall. I was trying to pull everything together. This was in the mid-1990s, before Internet, and I desperately and specifically wanted a World Book Encyclopedia set for my five children, aged 7 and under.

When I checked out the prices on a new set I was flabbergasted. The regular edition (maroon cover) exceeded $600. The deluxe hunter green with gold binding was more than $800. That was at least eight weeks worth of groceries. There was no way we could afford that!

Shortly afterwards, I was at a dinner party with some colleagues of my husband and their wives. I began chatting with Norma, a school teacher. I was lamenting the cost of the reference books and she gave me an idea.

“You know, I earned a set way back when,” she shared. “I don’t know if World Book still does it that way, but if you sold a certain number of sets you used to be able to earn one for yourself. I might still have the phone number somewhere of a district representative.”

That’s all I needed to hear. The next day Norma provided me with the number, and I found out that yes indeed the program was still in place. My mother volunteered to watch my little ones while I signed on to go door to door.

I got a selling kit, and familiarized myself with the product. I came up with a note card system to keep track of people I contacted, new leads and potential buyers. I padded out in the morning, waving goodbye to my little ones, which I hated to do. I forced myself to leave them playing with Grandma, telling myself it was hopefully just for a few weeks in the summer and reminding myself that this time with Grandma was quality time. Mom encouraged me each step of the way.
At the end of four weeks, I received a phone call.

“Theresa, you are the top salesperson in the district for July. You have earned the hunter green, gold bound set of encyclopedias, a little cash bonus and a halogen light as a prize.” It was the voice of the World Book district manager, the lady in charge. She paused and then asked me, “Would you consider continuing to sell for us?”

“Oh thank you!” I exclaimed, imagining the beautiful hard bound set on our den shelves. I could hardly contain my excitement. And then I quickly added, “No thank you!” to the thought of continuing to sell. I am positive I sounded too enthusiastic about that. I couldn’t turn in my sales material fast enough.

I was so proud when the encyclopedias were delivered to our home. The kids and I tore open the box and sat on the sofa right then and there, smelling the pages and looking things up. When the halogen light appeared on my doorstep a few days later, I excitedly presented it to my husband.

You might think this is a recollection about perseverance, of putting one’s mind to something and going out and getting it. Moms will do things they don’t particularly like to do if it means their families will benefit. That’s true. But this story is also about more than that. I pursued this idea on the suggestion of another. And, if you look back carefully you will see the words above, “mom volunteered,” “she encouraged.” It’s almost like a little afterthought to notice and acknowledge her involvement, but she was actually the adhesive for my whole encyclopedia-selling project. Like the stitching on a dress, her help was critical although perhaps not initially fully noticed. Without her participation, this simply would not have happened.

As I look back carefully, I see the common thread of her gift of time sewn throughout my life, a phone call here to give encouragement — an offer there to help me catch up on laundry — a book found just for me that she thought was relevant. “Go take a walk. I’ll hold the baby.” “Go take a nap. I’ve got it covered.” Her handiwork is most noticed through the eyes of retrospection. And less so yet still there is the gentle prodding and help of others — a suggestion that inspires, an opportunity given. If the first lesson is “persevere,” the second lesson is certainly “appreciate the hand others give so you can succeed.” When we receive we can learn to provide, and that’s the best way to make things happen.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.