Lessons from an errant email.
First, some background. My dad hated squirrels. It wasn’t simple dislike. It wasn’t contempt. No, this was an irrational, unadulterated, white-hot hatred. He took it very, very personally when he saw one of the furry little critters running along a large cedar fence we had in the backyard. So much so that eventually a fully loaded BB rifle took up permanent residence behind the radiator in our kitchen. You would be amazed how quickly a man in his late 60’s, upon seeing a squirrel, could drop a cup of coffee, sprint to the radiator, grab the rifle, pump it, open the window, crouch, draw a bead and squeeze off one or more shots whenever a squirrel violated the perimeter.
Fast forward. I live in a near west suburb of Chicago. This suburb, like lots of suburbs in the area is surrounded by Forest Preserves and wooded areas. Consequently, we get our share of wildlife. Deer occasionally wander through the neighborhood. Every now and again a fox will be seen sprinting between yards. And of course raccoons. Christ, do we have raccoons. They’ve grown so fat from the garbage they have consumed they no longer possess the “fight or flight” reaction when cornered by headlights. Now they just turn around, lower their heads and look at you disapprovingly. Once when I interrupted a raccoon eating a crust of bread near my garage I thought I heard him sigh.
Two weeks ago however, there was a new development. Coyotes. More precisely four coyotes that chased a German Shepherd puppy into a house and continued clawing at the door trying to get in. The news account detailed how the dog’s owner had to shoot two of the varmints with a BB gun to scare them off. When I read the story I immediately thought of my dad and how much he would have enjoyed a delivery option – where the animals actually come to your door. Oh yes. He would have relished that.
So I fired off an email to my siblings, telling them about the coyotes and reminding them that dad, ever the trendsetter, was shooting creatures in the backyard years before it became newsworthy. I didn’t catch that I included a client who shared a first name with one of my brothers.
I spoke to that client today and he mentioned that he had gotten the email. I fell all over myself, blabbering away, embarrassed beyond belief, when I heard him laughing.
“No need to apologize,” he said, still laughing. “I thought it was great. That email was the first time I thought of you as halfway human[his exact words, ouch] and not some boring lawyer. It made me think of my dad and how much I miss him, and how differently I would treat him if he were still here.”
That’s an eye-opener. I thought I did a pretty good job of making sure clients knew I was more than the stereotypical stuff shirt lawyer. I learned today I have more work to do.