When My Days Are Filled with People

Midwest-farm-land-sunrise-000003143136_LargeThe drive was long and straight, but I didn’t mind. The road between Detroit and Grand Rapids is an easy one, and I listened to satellite radio talk shows most of the time.

On the way back, the sun was rising as I drove east, the farmlands on my left backlit in pinks and oranges. The sleeping farms and long parallel fields ethereal under the dawning day.

The goal was one of relationships. Meet people, pair a face with a name, and start to understand what other people need.

In my business, it’s who you know and how you respect one another that makes all the difference. People hire a public relations professional to get them the exposure they feel they can’t acquire on their own. And so I do.

But I am just one woman in a little suburban milieu. What makes me so able when someone else is not?

It’s all relationships. And so I took to the road to meet in person with people I’d been trying to reach.

Portrait-of-an-old-lady-wearing-a-traditional-headdress,-isolated-000046153262_DoubleThat’s the difference. The knowing. The handshake, the face-to-face, the fact that you’ve peered into someone’s eyes and listened to their desires.

In this case, it’s the desire for good stories and reliable contacts. I can do that. I can be that. And that makes me valuable to the organizations I work with.

On Tuesday it was Grand Rapids but when I was a journalist, it used to be other cities: Des Moines, New York, Chicago. I went where the people were that I needed to know to succeed. Ask a question, listen to the answer, then implement it into my psyche.

It’s a simple process and one that anyone can replicate. We cannot succeed in our little offices all alone. It’s not enough to send an email or even pick up the phone. You have to know a person.

And they need to know you.

There are times that I wonder if I’m in the right business. It can be cut-throat, and I’m a person who believes people when they speak. So when a client or a media person or anyone betrays my trust, I’m truly stunned. Hurt. Wondering if I’m in the right line of work.

And then I do a thing like Tuesday’s trip and I know it’s right.

On the road to a place I don’t know well. I walked some of the city streets, dined in a farm-to-table restaurant. The waitress, Kathryn, asked my name as she walked me to my table. She asked me if my day was going well.

She listened as I answered.

I mean, really listened.

Portrait of liitle boy blowing a kissI like nice people. There’s no need for arrogance or attitude or thinking we’re better than another. It just isn’t real.

On Tuesday night, I sat in the lobby of my hotel with a woman who manages foster care for the west side of the state for my client. She’s been in that job for 27 years, and through the course of our conversation, she talked about the boards on which she sits, the committees she leads, and the everyday work to which she is devoted.

A nice person, with a big heart.

When I get to interact with interesting and kind people, I am in my element. I know that I am doing the right work. That my life is trained on the right purpose.

It’s when I sit alone behind my computer in the quiet office of my home that I begin to doubt. When I am all alone behind piles of work with nothing human attached to them.

We live in a world of connections. The need is real. The desire palpable. The focus of our lives has always been contributing to the greater good and there is no way we can do that alone.

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