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Friday, November 11, 2016


We don't always realize, when we are either learning ourselves or teaching others, that sometimes what is learned goes far deeper than we had originally thought. I realized this when I was training telephone customer service bankers. One day I discovered that one of my favorite trainees was no longer taking customer calls, he was now working as the department assistant. His duties were many, and the job was an important part of the functioning of the call center. He was responsible for supplies, mail, ensuring that forms went to the proper area, and all sorts of other things. 

When I saw Chris doing the job, my heart sank. I thought that I must have let him down as a trainer if he decided to leave his original position. Every time I saw him or spoke with him in passing, it haunted me. I had failed. One day, I decided that I couldn't let the self-torture continue. I had to know what had happened, so I asked. His face lit up as he told me that I was, indeed, the reason that he had left his original job. He wanted to thank me, and in fact, his mother wanted to thank me. 

This left me almost ready to cry. Had I done such an awful job that even his mother wanted him to quit? He then told me that because of my training, he had decided to go back to school and finish getting his bachelor's degree. And then he gave me another wonderful gift. He told me that before taking my new-hire training, he had thought that learning was boring. I had made him realize that learning could be fun. Needless to say, knowing that I had had this beautiful and unexpected impact in his life made me cry anyway. But they were tears of happiness.

This morning, I was playing a game of solitaire on my cell phone. Now, even a non-programmer type like me knows that computers of any ilk are very stringent about the rules. They know that A leads to B, and that's the way things are. They can't be forced to fudge the rules or be flexible with them like humans can. I remembered Gram teaching me how to play Solitaire years and years ago. She taught me how to lay out the cards. About discard piles and going through the deck. Playing the cards on each other and building up your suits at the top of the game, and moving Kings to the emptied spaces on the field, freeing the cards underneath them to be played.

Gram liked to play a hand of Solitaire every morning after her breakfast. She said that playing a game of Solitaire in the morning would tell her how her day would be. There was always a deck of cards on the kitchen table ready for her to shuffle with her gnarled, arthritic hands. I would watch as she played, sometimes telling her about a move that she hadn't noticed. And then I saw her doing something that I thought was breaking the rules. She took a stack of cards that did not have a King at the bottom and put them in an empty spot on the playing field. I told her that she couldn't do that, only Kings could go in an empty spot. She calmly and coolly told me that if all of the Kings were already on the table and there was an empty spot, you could move other cards there. Hey, it sounded good to me. If Gram said that it was okay, I would add that rule to my playing as well.

When I play Solitaire on my phone or computer, I often think of Gram and wish that I could use Gram Rules to play my game. And that's how it was this morning. I chuckled to myself at the memory of Gram bending the rules and knowing that she'd get frustrated with the inflexibility of playing it without a real deck. And then it hit me - Gram had, all those years ago, taught me an invaluable lesson. Sometimes we have to do whatever we can to make things work.

This kind of blew my mind, and in a way that I really needed. Like many people, I was taken by surprise with the election results this week. It didn't go the way that I had hoped or expected. I was stunned not only by the results, but the violence that occurred as a result of the presidential race. I had expected fear and disillusionment, but not anything like this. And then a game of Solitaire let Gram teach me something nineteen years after her death. Sometimes we have to do whatever we can to make things work.

The more I thought about her teaching me to play this simple card game, the more learning I found. The game will never be won without the different colors or cards working together. Every card in the deck is important and necessary to make the game a successful one. On the playing field, the King is on the bottom and the smaller cards are built on and supported by the most powerful one. When the suits are built up, the King cannot survive the game without the smaller cards, the little guys.

Like Gram's game of solitaire, we need to do whatever we can to make this thing work. We have to unite, all colors, all genders, all beliefs, all of us, no matter what category or description we use for ourselves. With our love for the other cards in the deck, we can win this game of life. Sometimes it might seem like the game is difficult or unwinnable, but if we work together, maybe we can make it happen.


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