“A great man is always willing to be little.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
The saying “Never judge a person until you have walked in mile in her shoes”, is so very true. Often, we tend to take things that we don’t do or deal with, for granted. For example, if we wanted chicken, we would just go to the market or supermarket to buy one. We never give any thought to the process or the labor involved in getting the chicken wrapped in plastic, to the market. We never wondered what it is like to be in the chicken farmer’s shoes…
I grew up in a working class family. My mom was a teacher and my dad worked in a office. Other than the usual house-hold chores that my sisters and I were ‘forced’ to do, I have never done any outdoor physical work when I was younger, oh wait! I watered the plants but I charged my dad for it! Hahaha…so I guess that don’t count. When I grew up, I worked in a comfortable air-conditioned office. So, I have to say that I have never really had to physically ‘work to my bones' for a living.
Last weekend, my friend and I decided to volunteer, to become traders for the day. We were supposed to be selling goods for a charitable organisation. There was a conference being held at one of the Convention centre and the organisers were letting out booths for rental. We thought that it was a good opportunity to sell our goods as well as to promote the organisation that we are representing. Mind you, neither of us have any experience doing this!. I did a brief stint last year but it was very brief and I did not do any lifting or carrying of merchandise.
So, after securing the booth, we went about setting up our allocated booth the day before the event. We literally packed everything, drove to the unloading bay (gosh!!! I have been to the unloading bay before and it is HUGE!!!!), and attempted to unload our goods on the trolley. Being clueless, I couldn’t figure out how to straighten the handle on the trolley. I yanked and pulled but to no avail until a kind-hearted soul, who saw me struggling and took pity upon me, came over and unlatched the handle for me. OOOOO….so that’s how it’s done. I needed to step on the latch to released the lock…..*mode* Sheepish …
After we unloaded the stuff, we pushed the trolley into the building to our booth. We had to make several trips as there was quite a lot of stuff. We arranged the items, covered the entrance to the booth with a cloth and went home. There were also other vendors who were setting also but they seemed like they have been doing it for ages because unlike us, they were very systematic.
The next day, we arrived at the booth very early because we wanted to catch the crowd before they went in for the conference. Let me tell you something. I am not a sale person. I can’t even pitch a sale even if my life depends on it. Some people are born with sale charms that they can lure and convince people to buy whatever they are selling. Well…..that’s not me! I am actually quite shy….but then again, I thought, since this is for a good cause, I must put aside my shyness and sell..sell..sell..
Then, a thought occurred to me. It is shyness that prevented me from trying to promote and sell all the merchandise ? or it is my ego, because deep down inside I feel that this job is beneath me. I was professionally trained and I was used to people coming to me for my expertise. Being a vendor means that I have to convince people that my product is good and persuade them to buy. I need to go to people instead of people coming to me. A completely new experience for me... Hhmmm….come to think of it, it could be my ego or riya’ that is holding me back. O.M.G!!!!! Now I get it why the Old wise Man made me stand and distribute free booklets for this charity organisation last time. He mentioned that it was good training for my soul but at that time, I thought he just wanted to torture and bully me for asking too much questions and driving him mental! The Wise Old man was right. The act of asking something from another person, even if it's just attention, does make you humble, especially if you want the person to react kindly and listen to you.
Ok back to my story. There I stood, stiff like a totem pole, inside the booth, hoping and praying that people would just saunter in my booth and purchase everything. My friend looked at me and said to me; “ you can stand there until the cows come home, those abayas will not promote itself. Get out there and start promoting!”. My dearest friend, sister S, was literally standing outside our booth calling out to people to come and visit our booth ! Now, this friend of mine is no sale person either. In fact, her day job is quite the opposite of sales. Sister S is a highly qualified member of the medical field. She is a professor, surgeon and a specialist but the way she was promoting our items, would bring shame to any fish mongers.
Looking at her, I said to myself, if she can do it, for the sake of God, then why can’t I? so, I gathered my wits, quashed my ego and walked out to join sister S.
The day went smoothly and Alhamdulillah our sales were very good. We actually had fun doing it. I now appreciate what hard work is. When you want to convince people, the first thing you need to do is to push aside your ego and replace it with humility. People, even myself, respond better to humbleness than arrogance. I also learnt that honesty is the key to success. If you are honest about your products then you will have returning customers and a honest vendor will reap tremendous rewards.
“Abū Sa'īd reported,
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allāh be on him, said”
"The truthful, honest merchant is with the prophets and the truthful ones and the martyrs." Hadith Tirmidhi
Our beloved Prophet SAW was a trader himself and people bought from him because he was known for his honesty.
I now have renewed respect for these vendors who do this day in day out for a living. It is not easy to be on your feet the whole day and it is very tiring but the returns can be very fulfilling.
“Miqdām reported, The Messenger of Allāh, peace and blessings of Allāh be on him, said:
"No one eats better food than that which he eats out of the work of his hand."
We stayed till night time and then our hubbies came to our rescue. They helped us packed and loaded the stuff into the car. Sister S and I looked like we were ready to drop. We bade our farewells to the other vendors and wished them well. That night, I slept like a log and now....... I can finally say that I have ‘worked to my bones’……….Will I do it again? You betcha!!!!