November 2014, Thailand
Buddha, I assume?
I was in downtown Bangkok doing my mandatory souvenir shopping as I do on every trip, nice to see different cultures.
As I made my first purchase the salesgirl gave me a modest discount saying, "You are my first customer of the day". Sure, I thought, in midday I am the first customer, I am not a fool, but whatever, take the discount.
Then she did something I had never seen before; after waving the bill across some burning candles and incense she took my 1,000 Baht bill and smacked it across all her merchandise.
"What on earth are you doing?" I said.
"First customer of day, for good luck."
She was being honest and she had faith, in something, how unusual in the business world. I was touched.
Soon I saw others doing this and I realized this is the common Buddhist practice.
But then I saw something that touched me in an unusual way. A woman stood alone in her tiny store and prayed. To whom did she pray? I assume Buddha, or "The Buddha" although to be honest I have no idea what that means. I had asked one woman what they meant and all I got was "It is complicated, difficult to explain."
I do not know much about their religions and we pretty much dismiss them as idol worship, but there was something about this woman that deeply touched me.
She was praying with such sincerity. She was totally in the moment, and totally submissive to the fate of the "gods". I could not hear her, and I could not understand her, but yet I did.
I understood her universal prayer; Dear whomever it may concern, I need you today, I need your help, I have done all I can do, I have bought the best merchandise, I have displayed it so nicely, I have spent arranging it in an attractive way making best use of the space, I have chosen fair prices, I have chosen a good location, and now Dear God, Allah, Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Mohamed, whomever; I need you.
I need you to help me feed my family, to live a life of dignity, I do not want to come home empty handed, I do not want to face my family with shame that I have not brought home a decent income. Please spare me this shame, spare me the hunger, spare me the humiliation of having to beg from others.
Truly this is a universal prayer. Any humble human being knows that much is out of our control. We try our best. We study and train for a career, we invest in a business and then...then it is out of our control. We do all that we can and then we wait.
Yes, you can be like those who run out of their shop chasing you with..."Special price for you my friend." But does not really increase business?
I highly doubt it.
Monks monks hanging out
I looked at this sweet Thai woman and I sent blessings her way. I truly hope she had a successful day, I truly hope she came home to her family with a smile and a bag full of Baht. Whatever she believes and to whom ever she was praying I hope the God of us all heard her prayers. For truly sincere prayers cannot be ignored. Prayers from the heart cannot go unanswered. Sweet sincerity cannot but begin to change the world.
I have no explanation, strange world to me.
During this brief trip abroad I have seen much that has inspired me. I have seen true kindness from strangers when I landed in a strange land and was lost. I have seen hard work and honesty. I have seen the face of kindness.
I need not understand their religion and I need not agree with it. But I do understand their prayers, their work ethic.
What I can walk away with is humility and a desire to improve.
I want to improve myself, I want to improve the way we do business.
We shall work hard, we shall remain humble and then we shall pray that our efforts are successful.