I was waiting for a consultation with home purchasers at Peet’s in Shirlington on a crisp, winter day. I knew a little bit about the couple I was to meet from the friend who referred them to me and an email exchange, however, I was not sure if I would recognize them. I stood near the entrance of the small coffee shop, keeping my eyes up as each customer came to the door, hoping to meet a mutual expression. Most folks just walked by, though a couple folks smiled and said hello.
And then, I met Kevin. As Kevin walked in to the coffee shop in a suit and tie, he caught my intent focus and smile. He smiled back and nodded through his black-framed glasses. I knew pretty quickly that this was not my appointment, however it took a couple more minutes for me to realize that Kevin and I were intended to meet that day. As I continued to act as the unofficial greeter for Peet’s, Kevin received his coffee and headed to the cream and sugar area. I happened to turn around and caught his glance as he stirred his coffee. With the second non-verbal, mutual recognition of each other’s presence, Kevin approached me and asked me my name.
“I’m Chris. Are you looking for someone?” I replied, thinking maybe I was wrong and this was indeed my appointment.
“Hey Chris. I’m Kevin. I was wondering if I can talk to you for a few minutes. You seemed to be so welcoming at the door that I thought that maybe you can hear me out about something.”
Reeling a bit from such a disarming sentiment, I replied “OK, Kevin. I have an appointment with some folks, but we can chat until they arrive. I do need to keep an eye out for them.”
Admittedly, I was a little skeptical about where we were going with this next step, but more so, I felt compelled to learn more. “I lost my job last week,” Kevin said as his gaze started to our feet. “And I haven’t told my wife. I’m afraid. I don’t know what to do.” Kevin continued to speak about how he had never been dismissed from a job and how he was worried about his responsibility to his family.
This was a Monday afternoon and I quickly pieced that Kevin had gone through the motions of dressing for work and leaving his home earlier that morning. I could only imagine the claws of dread, guilt, and shame that clutched him over the last few days and the power of denial that pulled him out into the world today. I could feel it in this catharsis. Kevin needed help. I had no idea how I could offer it, but I quickly decided to give him a piece of advice and my business card before I left him for my appointment. “Call or email me whenever you’d like, Kevin. I’d like to help, however I can. And promise me you’ll go home and tell your wife about this?” Kevin nodded and graciously thanked me for what was only about three minutes of time together.
I thought a lot about that interaction throughout the rest of the day, even telling the couple I met at that appointment about it. By the next morning, I had an email from Kevin. He let me know that while it was very difficult, he did tell his wife that evening. Again, he was thankful that I suggested he do so. He also asked if we could meet for coffee sometime soon.
I continue to reflect on those three minutes, even several months later. As grateful as Kevin was to meet a friendly face and speak to an open ear in a difficult moment, I am indebted much more to his willingness to pull me into his world and provide a chance to help. I learned a very impactful lesson about being present for others, even the unfamiliar, and the importance of listening with an open heart. As a professional who works closely with people that are taking on heavy financial and emotional events in their life, I better understand that listening to what they say is critical.
There is more to this story with Kevin. We have met a few times and chatted on the phone since our first interaction. I hope to share more as our relationship grows.