During an interview at work recently, I met a man, a very desperate man, who wanted to work for our small agency.
The interview began just as any other. Introductions were made and work history was reviewed, while the critical analysis of his appearance, age and his general fit was swimming around my subconscious.
In general, candidates tell you things you are not supposed to ask, so I simply nodded when he offered up the information that he has a wife and two children. But when he added that he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis five years ago, that life has certainly handed him some challenges, I was unprepared for what happened next. Like a light bulb that blows unexpectedly when you turn on a switch, I was surprised when he began to cry.
Feeling a lump growing in my throat, I tried to ignore it. But events that come unexpectedly, especially ones that change your life, have an undeniable, underlying truth that cannot be swallowed away. It seemed that my years of soul-searching, meditating and determination to make a difference in others’ lives, came smack up against my hardened professionalism in the world of business.
My inner and outer worlds were about to crumble together in one heaping pile of tears. My heart began to speak over my head, and I found myself asking him how he managed with his plate so full. How he sounded like an amazing father with the strength to move mountains. I knew I stumbled upon not just a man, a body who needed a job, but a soul with an open heart, who was suddenly touching mine.
Through his tears, he voiced how he could not understand why nobody has given him a chance. That he was a good person and a hard worker. That being out of work for over a year was chipping away at his self esteem.
As I took a breath, I could no longer deny how I was immeasurably touched by his vulnerability. I wanted to toss my pen and paper, and reach out and hug him, thank him for his openness. I wanted to explain to him that most people who interview for a job, have created a hard professionalism, surrounding their heart with armour. They think there is a “right way” to go on an interview, and too often, it is an act, an image thrown out at an employer, fooling them into hiring a drone, one seemingly without a heart.
But life is not exactly like the movies, so I did not hug him, or give him a high-five. I simply allowed the shift inside myself to settle. And awareness came to the forefront of my mind. Life has thrown this man so many curve balls that he has forgotten how to hold up his shield, put on his mask.
Nobody had hired him, despite his good experience. Perhaps, they were afraid—their own armor snugly in place. I do not judge. It is just an observation, because that was me. In my professional life as a recruiter, I interviewed thousands of people, all with my heart deeply buried. I checked them each off my list like they were pieces of scrap metal and I was the junkyard dog. And I got paid a lot of money.
But somewhere over the course of my soul-searching, I must have woken up. And when we wake up, life gives us beautiful gifts disguised as reminders, teachers and messengers—to confirm we are on the right path. Intuitively, I knew why this man was sitting in front of me. A gentle soul, he was there to teach me to listen to my heart. To tell me that I am on the right path, that it is my mission to show others how we all need to bring our hearts back into our businesses.
It is time we start merging our outer and inner lives. To not wait until somebody shows up at the office with a gun or for terrorists who tear apart our families, shaking the foundation of our lives, to wake up and listen to one another. To allow our vulnerability and hearts to remain open, whether we are pouring coffee, selling commodities or creating websites.
After all, it is all too easy to let our hearts open in the safety of a dark movie theater or beneath the security of our blankets at night. But how does this look in real life? What about in those hard to reach places like behind a desk? What if we all began to merge this outer and inner life? To ask the person making our coffee at our local hang out how he is doing, and mean it. Instead of cursing them out silently, to see another who is complaining, as someone who needs more understanding and love, not less.
If we stop trying so hard to look a certain way, and turn inward to how we feel, might we all breathe a little easier? There are teachers and messengers everywhere we go, reminding us, we are all here to open our hearts more, and feeling is simply human. This man who sat in front of me was not just another resume, but a check mark in the employment box of life; a yes in favor of humanity.
I hired this gentle soul. I look forward to all he has to teach me, for he is truly, an angel in disguise