Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I remember a nice woman on a rainy day...

During the summer of 1985, I sold books door-to-door with the Southwestern Book Company. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Instead of a boring summer job selling hamburgers or something, I would travel to Nashville for sales school, then they would send our team to some undetermined territory in the USA to sell books all summer. I had never been to Nashville! The adventure of the job grabbed my imagination.

The reality of the job was somewhat different. All I saw of Nashville was the inside of the sales school. Our "undetermined territory" was Nebraska, not at all as romantic as I was hoping. And our schedule...we would start knocking on doors at 7:59 AM, and we wouldn't stop knocking on doors until 9:30 PM, six days a week. On the seventh day God rested, but we had a sales meeting. This grueling schedule was exhausting and monotonous. Our bodies did as our brains told them, but they revolted in any way they could...none of us girls on the team menstruated all summer long. There was no energy to spare.

On one horrible day that will forever remain branded in my memory, the rain poured down in sheets. I kept walking from door to door, knocking like an automaton, droning in a monotone: "Hello, I'm talking to all the folks in the neighborhood with school-age kids, showing them these educational tools..." I was soaking wet, from my head to my book bag to my squishy shoes. Nobody let me in. Nobody. I just kept walking and knocking, walking and knocking for hours in the rain.

It was about four in the afternoon. I had been fruitlessly knocking for eight hours. I knocked on the door in front of me. A woman with a round face and square glasses answered the door. Before I could even begin droning my introduction, she began talking with exclamation marks. "I don't know what you are selling, but you look like a drowned rat! Get in here and dry off!!" and she swept me into her entry way, had me in a fluffy bathrobe with my clothes in the dryer and a mug of hot chocolate in my hand before I even realized what was happening.

Her home was decorated in dark wood and leather, and there was a massive cage in the living room with two very colorful macaws. "My husband is away on a photo safari in Africa, so I'm tending the fort right now!" There were tribal masks on the wall, trinkets from all over the world sitting on shelves and coffee tables. "We don't have any children, but these dumb birds keep me from getting lonely!" she beamed with obvious good nature. "So, show me what you are selling!"

It was the last thing I wanted to do. She was so nice, and I did not want to hit her with the sales pitch, which seemed so fake and rehearsed to me. I just wanted to talk. "I can show you the books, but they are for people with kids, so I don't think you'll want them."

"Show me anyway! You can practice your sales talk!"

I went through the sales presentation, feeling kind of silly as I sat there in her bathrobe. When I was done, she said, "Well, I'll take four sets of the Volume Library, and I need six sets of those Learning to Read books, and you might as well throw in a few of those cookbooks, too!"

My jaw dropped. I mean it. My mouth hung open in utter shock. "Really?" I squeaked.

"Yeah! I have batches of nieces and nephews, and they all have birthdays, and these books look good! Write it up!"

I had to borrow a calculator. I had never made such a big sale. I hadn't even sold that much in a week before, and here I was making the sale in one rainy afternoon.

Once my clothes were dry, I put them back on and headed back out into the rainy day, but it didn't matter anymore. The rain didn't affect me! I had just experienced a true miracle, and I knew it. I kept knocking on doors until 9:30 that night, knocking in the rain, thanking God for that nice lady who talked in exclamation marks and had such a big heart.

10 comments:

Kim said...

I want to be that lady someday and be a kind heart to a lost salesperson at my door!

Karin said...

God shows up in so many unexpected places!

papa herman said...

What a wonderful lady!!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely story. I was reminded by someone recently that I(or anyone of us) may be the only "Jesus" some people meet in a day and to remember that in my contacts. That lady was "Jesus" to you that day.

Lisa said...

That story made me cry, Paula! What a welcoming person she was - to take you in and dry you off. And generous too, to make such a large order! I wanna be her!

Amber said...

Ah, you're a good writer Paula... round face with square glasses... etc. Such a sweet story. I love that you were all hyped for an adventure, and got stuck in Nebraska.

Biby Cletus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Patrushka said...

Another good one, Paula! You've got a great memory and eye for detail that lets us "be there" with you.

Spoke said...

Remember when Jesus told his story of the good Samaritan? I bet as he was telling THAT story, he knew THIS one would unfold too. How cool to be a part of its telling!

delynne said...

it's remarkable how an act of kindness can be remembered for so long - I'm sure that lady has no idea how she impacted you. That is a cool story.

Oz once sold encycopedias for a summer... )-: