I would be ungrateful if I did not express thanks for something that happened this week…and post about it. It was a meeting snafu that resulted in one of the most powerful reminders of what really matters.
I was in Houston for business meetings. It had been a great 24 hours of sessions and pitches and calls and I was experiencing that combination of exhaustion and achievement that happens when you feel like you are giving someting your all. (Context: I got to spend the day with hundreds of “Female Founders” – the women leading Boards and CEOs who are driving a powerful community for progress and change. Props to Carolyn Rodz and the amazing ELizabeth Gore on what they are doing with Circular Board (www.circularboard.com)…more on that in a later post).
The final meeting of my time in Houston was a pitch meeting with a person who asked to meet me at the entrance Houston Museum of Fine Arts…a building located directly across the street from the session I had emceed until earlier that day.
Everything was set. Meeting time confirmed. My talking points were prepped. I spent some time researching the person I was meeting and felt like I had a handle on the situation. I had my luggage ready and at the door and a cab had been pre-ordered so I could run from the meeting to the airport and be back in time for the mix of mayhem and awesome that is everybody’s home..and definitely mine.
And then everything went wrong.
I was at the wrong museum. And then the other person was late. And we were using the wrong cell phone numbers. And both our assistants were unavailable. And he got a conflicting call. And I had put something into my calendar on the wrong timezone.
So this very important meeting was now looking like a loss. And I really wanted him to know about the Foundation and the important work underway. While this great opporutnity was disintegrating in front of my eyes I started listening to self-doubts instead of just taking it for what it was. “Why did I let this slip? What a mess! I could have been doing so many other more important things! Why?!”
And then the woman at the front desk of the museum called out and said the magic words. “Sir, why don’t you come in? We just opened and you are the only one here. You will have the place to yourself. It would be a shame to miss out. Don’t miss this collection just because you missed a meeting!”
YOU HAVE THE PLACE TO YOURSELF. Was she joking? One of the most important museums in our nation? But after I took a quick inventory of the situation…she was right! It was opening time and I had been there for a while. And not even the school groups had entered yet. The museum, truly, was mine.
I must have leapt at this unsuspecting and kind woman and I am sure I scared her half to death. “YES!”
I only had 20 minutes. But I really needed them. I texted a dear friend who knows the collection like the back of his hand. Luckily he was in between meetings in Europe and saw my frantic text. He called me back (where he was with clients at the Louvre of all places!). His first words were important. “This is not the time to try and hit everything. Experience something special you will remember until you come back next. Don’t run. Experience..and then do something with it.” He gave me my marching orders…and some expert recommendations since he knows me and what interests me…and I was on my way.
To be clear, I would have enjoyed the experience in the company of friends or colleagues or with thousands of people with me. But to be able to savor a place dedicated to beauty and art was, at this particular time, a true blessing. A lot had been happening in our life this past month. And while I had been spending time trying to communicate and meditate, it hadn’t always been easy.
I chose the room with one of my favorite works of art and decided it was a good time to reflect, to pray, and just be grateful.
As I left the room one of the guards, who was keeping watch in the gallery in front of me, said quietly, “Pretty special, huh? All this just for you.” He was right. All of this world…the beauty and the struggles and the triumphs and the trials. The breakthroughs and the breakouts. Revelries and rashes. They are all “just for us.”
I reflected on how the only words I had heard in the museum that day, from the woman at the front desk, my friend on the phone, and the security guard, were reflections of what is the foundation of my faith. This life has been given to us as an opportunity. We are supposed to experience it, not just run. And all this is just for us. And we are only truly grateful if we do something with all that we have been given. If we believe that a loving God has given us much, then we should stop to recognize it and then share it.
So while the rest of the week will be focused on the very real challenges we face in the world today…much of which is ugly and scary and far from the beauty of an art museum…I needed those 20 minutes in Houston alone in those galleries. It happens rarely. But when it does, I want to take it.
And, while I regret not getting the name of the woman at the front desk. I want to be her. I want to recognize the stressed out business traveller who is about to miss out on a huge opportunity of humanity…and invite someone in.
I am so glad that the meeting went so wrong…it sure continues to feel right.
Learn more about the fantastic Houston Museum of Fine Arts at www.mfah.org