THE EXPERIMENT

As she walked into the main lobby, Marilyn took a deep breath and tried unsuccessfully to control her nervousness. The tension had been mounting all morning, and now that the meeting was about to happen, she was having doubts about the entire thing. What if she had miscalculated the value of the interaction? What if the individual she’d placed was struggling in ways she was not aware of? What if the idea was flawed from the start? And worst of all, what if the Executive Director had the same concerns she did.

With considerable effort, she forced those thoughts out of her mind. It was too late now anyway. A decision would be made shortly that would have a profound effect on one life and a ripple effect on many others – including hers. However, her concern was not for herself. Her attention was focused completely on Teresa Hampton. Marilyn was worried that she had created false hope even though she had the best of intentions.

The organization she worked for attempted to find employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. Her job was often frustrating because the business community was still reluctant to even consider hiring people with intellectual challenges. After facing an endless stream of closed doors, she had come up with the idea of trying to place a person with a disability on the staff of a long-term care facility. In many ways, both the residents and the person with challenges represented populations that were vulnerable. These two groups were sometimes kept out of the mainstream of society and yet both had so much to offer. It was her hope that bringing them together would be a positive experience for all.

But it proved to be a hard sell.

This facility had been her fourth attempt. Of the other three, two had refused outright and the third had briefly shown mild interest, but eventually, they also said no.

So by the time she came to the meeting ninety days ago, her confidence in the idea had begun to wane.

When Marilyn was introduced to Executive Director, Paul Wyatt, she was shocked by his physical appearance. At 6’6” he towered over her. And it immediately became apparent that he was a serious, no-nonsense administrator. It had been difficult for Marilyn to get a read on him because his even temperament did not reveal what he was thinking, let alone what he was feeling. His businesslike attitude clearly conveyed that he was only interested in facts. Opinions could be kept to oneself, and it would be foolish to prey on his emotions in an effort to persuade him to agree with your perspective.

However, when Marilyn made her pitch, she was impressed that he listened carefully. His thoughtful follow-up questions proved that he understood what she was trying to accomplish.

The meeting had concluded with Mr. Wyatt stating flatly, “I am willing to give this a try – but I make no promises. If the individual cannot do the work, if they will not follow instructions, if they are chronically tardy or if they have unexcused absences, they will be treated just like anyone else. Their employment will be terminated.”

That was certainly clear enough. Although there was nothing warm and fuzzy about the man’s demeanor, Marilyn had to admit he was being fair. One week later she brought Teresa Hampton to the facility and the ninety-day experiment began.

Now, as she walked through the lobby, she could not believe how fast the three months had flown by.

When she got to the Director’s office, the receptionist told her he would be with her momentarily. Marilyn had no doubt that would be the case. Paul Wyatt was ex-military, and he was punctual to the extreme.

Although he had agreed to her proposition, she knew that he harbored certain reservations that she feared was about to be discussed in great detail. She spent a few moments checking email on her phone, and then the door to his office swung open.

In his deep and somewhat intimidating voice, the Executive Director said, “Mrs. Barnes, it is good to see you. Please come in.”

 

*************************

 

Only fifteen minutes later, the meeting was over. As Marilyn had expected, it was all business, with few pleasantries and little small talk. Surprisingly, however, Mr. Wyatt had not reached a definitive decision. He had told her he was still in the process of gathering information, and he did not indicate whether or not the facts he was accumulating were in her favor. But in the interest of fairness, he requested that they go into the facility together and talk to Teresa.

Although Marilyn assumed it was unlikely he would ultimately decide in her favor, she felt a small measure of relief that he had not made an outright decision against her initiative. For now, she still held out some hope for Teresa’s prospects of being hired full-time.

Together they left his office and walked down several long hallways that had comfortable well-appointed rooms on either side. Most of the residents lived alone, but there were a handful of married couples who required larger accommodations. Some of the doors to the rooms were closed, but most were open, and Mr. Wyatt spoke to each resident as they passed by.

They turned a corner and walked through an open door that led into the kitchen area. Marilyn looked around for Teresa, but she was nowhere in sight. Once again Mr. Wyatt took the time to speak to each of the workers who informally called him Paul. Just as he was about to ask about her, Teresa came through a door on the other side of the room. Her petite frame was mostly hidden behind the large stacks of dish towels she was carrying. When she set them down on the counter she noticed the two visitors.

“Mrs. Barnes!” She exclaimed, as she came running over and threw her arms around her in a fierce hug.

“Hello, Teresa.” Marilyn smiled. “You look busy.”

“I am! But it’s so much fun.”

She turned to Mr. Wyatt. “Hi, Paul. Are you hungry? Did you come in here to get something to eat?”

“No, no. We actually came in here to speak to you.”

The Director looked over at Mrs. Simmons, the kitchen supervisor. “We’re going to have a quick chat with Teresa.” The supervisor nodded.

Mr. Wyatt led the two women into the adjacent dining room, and they all sat down around a table.

Mr. Wyatt opened the conversation. “How is your day going, Teresa?”

“Just fine. This is a wonderful place. How about your day?”

Her question caught Mr. Wyatt by surprise. He answered, “I’m having a good day too, but I have some big decisions to make. That is why we wanted to talk with you.” 

He turned to Marilyn. “Mrs. Barnes, would you like to start us off?”

After waiting for ninety days, the moment of truth was now inescapable. Marilyn was about to find out if her organization, and more importantly if Teresa, had a future with this facility.

As she looked intently at the diminutive twenty-two-year-old woman in front of her, Marilyn wished she could guarantee that Teresa would be successfully employed. But as a result of her developmental disability, Teresa had particular issues with staying focused on a task and with her short-term memory. Those concerned Marilyn about her possible job performance.

She started by asking, “Teresa, your shift is from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Is that correct?”

“Yes, ma’am. I do breakfast and lunch, but not dinner.”

“Please tell me what you like about working here.”

“Oh sure. That’s easy. I like that I get to stay really busy. Mostly I help out in the kitchen, but once in a while, I get to help with the meal times. We have to work very fast and sometimes I get confused and have trouble keeping up, but the other ladies always help me out.”

Marilyn snuck a glance at Mr. Wyatt, but his expression revealed nothing.

Teresa continued. “The best part of the job is the residents. They’re really nice. My favorites are Shelly, Albert, Walt – he is so funny, Francine, Lucille…and everyone else.”

Marilyn couldn’t help but smile, however, she knew the job consisted of washing dishes and cleaning, and that worried her. Teresa was supposed to concentrate on her work. That was, after all, why she was here. Marilyn knew that Mr. Wyatt would take a dim view if she was failing in her duties in the kitchen.

As pleasantly as she could, Marilyn asked, “What did you mean when you said the other ladies help you out?”

“Well, sometimes I make mistakes, but they are always nice to me. My main job is to rinse off all the plates, glasses, cups, and silverware and load them in the big dishwasher. It takes about an hour to do them all. But the dishes are slippery and sometimes I drop them – well, sometimes a lot. Then we have to stop and sweep everything up and that causes us to slow down.”

Marilyn began to feel slightly anxious.

“But once all the dishes are loaded, I start helping get the next meal ready. Sometimes I wash off the produce, peel potatoes, start making the salad and help with the baking. I know I’m not fast, but I try to stay out of the way and keep working no matter what.”

Marilyn was now concerned. It sounded like Teresa was struggling. She had only worked in the kitchen for a short time. How long would it be before the others began to resent having to slow down and clean up after her?

“They’ve shown me how to use most of the equipment, but sometimes I forget, and they have to stop and show me again. I feel bad that I can’t remember. I know it’s important, but when I’m rushed I don’t think as well.”

Mr. Wyatt remained impassive as he listened to Teresa, but Marilyn felt worse with each sentence she heard. Clearly, the young lady did not understand that she was sealing her fate by being so honest. However, Marilyn could not help but feel like this was actually her fault. Although she had the best of intentions, she had apparently placed Teresa in a situation she was not prepared to handle.

Mr. Wyatt gently said, “I appreciate you explaining to us what it’s like for you to work in our kitchen. But I just want to be sure about one thing. Overall, you enjoy being here, is that correct?”

Teresa beamed. “Yes! I love it here. I’ve never been so happy in my whole life.”

“That’s good to hear.” Mr. Wyatt looked at Marilyn and noticed the distress that she was desperately trying to hide. He turned back to Teresa. “Thank you for talking with us. You can go back to work now, and please tell Mrs. Simmons we would like to talk to her.”

Marilyn’s heart sank. The supervisor would have no choice but to give an accurate assessment of Teresa’s ability.

They sat in silence for a few moments until Mrs. Simmons joined them at the table.

Mr. Wyatt was all business as usual. “Mrs. Simmons, I would like your professional opinion of the job performance of Teresa Hampton. She has now completed her three-month placement with us, and I need to make a final assessment regarding her skills and abilities to determine whether she has a future with our organization. Please speak freely and tell us anything you believe would be helpful to me as I make my decision.”

Marilyn watched the obvious discomfort of the supervisor as she struggled to find the kindest way to deliver the bad news.

Mrs. Simmons took a deep breath and began. “First let me say that we all think the world of Teresa. Every one of us in the kitchen hoped she would be successful at her job. I honestly believe she comes to work each day and does the best she can. She always tries, and she makes the effort. But it is fair to say that she is having problems. Out of necessity, the kitchen is fast-paced. There are days where she just cannot keep up with what we are doing. So usually I assign her a task where she can work out of the way and not slow us down. I know that sounds harsh, but we have one hundred people to feed three times a day, and there are only four of us plus Teresa.”

Mrs. Simmons paused to let the bad news sink in. She could tell from Marilyn’s expression that this was difficult for her to hear. Mr. Wyatt, on the other hand, had no reaction.

The supervisor wanted to get the unpleasantness over with, so she pressed ahead. “The biggest problem we have with Teresa is her inability to handle the job she was actually hired to do. She is supposed to be the primary dishwasher – but she breaks plates. Everyday. Over and over again. I thought it would get better with time, but, unfortunately, it hasn’t. We have to clean up the mess repeatedly. She is always sorry, and she apologizes constantly, but she just cannot seem to handle the wet dishes.”

Mr. Wyatt looked at her evenly. “Are there any other issues you can think of?”

Mrs. Simmons hesitated but then reluctantly admitted, “Teresa keeps forgetting what we’ve shown her. We have gone over how to use the equipment in the kitchen countless times, but no matter how hard she tries, she just can’t remember. Everyone, so far, has been patient with her – but like I said, we always have the pressure of time. Eventually one of us usually ends up doing her work.”

Mrs. Simmons looked over at Marilyn and said, “I’m sorry that I can’t give you a better report, but I have to give you an accurate evaluation. However, let me say again that Teresa is a wonderful person, and we enjoy being around her, but I’m not sure this is really the best job for her at this time. Maybe someday she’ll develop the skills she needs to work in a kitchen……”

Marilyn nodded. “Thank you for sharing your opinion.”

“I want to thank you as well.” Mr. Wyatt said. “I know this was not easy for you. We appreciate you giving Teresa a chance.”

Mrs. Simmons stood up, relieved that the conversation was over, and quickly left the room.

They sat in silence for a few moments and then Marilyn said, “It would appear that, after everything we’ve heard, your decision is obvious.”

Mr. Wyatt nodded in agreement.

“I just want to say that I am so grateful that you were willing to work with our organization and give it a try.” Unable to hide her disappointment, Marilyn added, “You’ll never know how much I regret that this did not work out for Teresa.”

Mr. Wyatt cleared his throat. “Yes, it is an unfortunate situation, but I have a personal favor that I would like to ask you.” He looked at his watch. “Would you be willing to come back here this evening at 6:30? It is very important, and I promise I will give you my final decision at that time.”

Marilyn was confused by his request. She preferred to get the bad news now so she could relay it to her organization, but she was in Mr. Wyatt’s debt. “Yes, of course.” And then she took a chance by asking, “Do you actually think Teresa has any chance of keeping her job in the kitchen?”

Mr. Wyatt frowned. “I think we both know the answer to that. But please come back this evening so I can explain my thinking.”

They stood up and shook hands. Feeling discouraged, Marilyn walked out of the dining area and started thinking about how to give Teresa the heartbreaking news.

 

*************************

 

At 6:30 sharp, Marilyn walked through the sliding security doors of the large facility and was surprised to find Mr. Wyatt waiting for her.

His face was grim. “Thank you for coming back. It is absolutely crucial that you have all the facts so you fully understand my decision.”

“It’s not a problem. My organization is quite interested in seeing how we can improve our chances of helping our individuals find employment.”

“Please, follow me.”

Mr. Wyatt led the way to the spacious common lounge area in the center of the complex where the residents liked to spend time together. The large comfortable room had TV’s mounted on the walls at each end. There were books and magazines on shelves lining one wall and scattered throughout the area were assorted couches and cushy chairs with many residents sitting and relaxing after the evening meal. At one end of the room there was an animated bingo game in progress and right in the middle, at the center of all the activity, stood Teresa.

Marilyn was surprised to see her at this time of day. She turned to Mr. Wyatt. “Why is Teresa here? Her shift ended three hours ago.”

“That’s right. She is finished in the kitchen at 3:30. But now her real work begins.” And at that moment, Paul Wyatt smiled in such a warm way that Marilyn was startled.

Then, with just the faintest hint of emotion in his voice, he said, “Every weekday evening, without fail, Teresa comes back. No one has ever asked her to. She just started appearing here on her own.”

During the meeting, Marilyn had wondered how the young woman found time to become so familiar with the residents. She was trying to understand the significance of what she was seeing when Teresa turned around and spotted them. With a big smile on her face, she started walking in their direction, but suddenly out of the corner of her eye, Teresa saw a woman, sitting across the room, pull out a tissue and start to softly weep. Marilyn watched as Teresa immediately rushed over and sat down next to the woman.

She turned to the Director and asked, “What is happening?”

Mr. Wyatt looked at Marilyn and said, “Teresa is working. She is doing the job she was born to do.”

Marilyn watched as Teresa gently took the eighty-year-old woman’s hand in hers. Then she reached up with her other hand and began to softly stroke the woman’s hair. Almost immediately the individual began to relax, and after a few moments, she put her head on Teresa’s shoulder.

Marilyn was stunned by what she was seeing.

Mr. Wyatt, sensing her surprise, began his explanation. “I’m sure you are aware by now that I am a stickler for rules and regulations.” He watched as Marilyn smiled in response. He lowered his voice and said, “But I am willing to go ahead and break a very important rule – if you give me your word that what I am about to tell you regarding some of our residents will go no further.”

Marilyn looked him in the eye and said, “I will not repeat anything you say.”

“Thank you. As you know, our residents have the right to complete privacy, particularly concerning their medical information, and it is my responsibility to protect that privacy. But this is such a special situation that I am going to use first names and a cursory account of the issues they are dealing with. I want you to fully understand what you are witnessing.”

Marilyn looked back at Teresa and the woman. The resident was now rocking peacefully with her eyes closed.

“Teresa is sitting with Shelly. She has stage four cancer, and she is utilizing our hospice services. Most of the time she is incredibly courageous, but it’s getting near the end, and occasionally she has moments like you just saw where she feels overwhelmed. Teresa is the only one that she responds to. Even the nurses, with all their training, are not able to help her relax the way Teresa can. They have a bond that is difficult to describe – but Shelly is not the only one.”

Marilyn was having difficulty believing this was the same person they had discussed earlier in the day. “Does Teresa realize how sick the woman is?”

“Yes, she does. When we saw how close they had grown to each other, we carefully explained that Shelly was so sick she might not live for too long. Teresa told us that she understood. But she also said that she wanted Shelly to be happy for as long as possible. And then she asked if it would be okay to keep being Shelly’s friend until her life ended.”

Marilyn suddenly became aware of a growing lump in her throat.

Mr. Wyatt continued. “Remember during our meeting when Teresa mentioned the residents that were her favorites?”

“Yes. She named four or five people.”

“Each one of those individuals has serious issues that they’re dealing with. For example, Francine has dementia. And even though she does not always recognize Teresa that does not keep them from being the closest of companions. Despite her confusion, she seems to sense that Teresa is there to help. Francine never lashes out at her like she does the other staff.

“She also mentioned Albert. He has diabetes that may require part of his leg to be amputated. Because he and Teresa love to dance together, he was very concerned that his surgery would change their relationship. But she assured him that no matter what happens to him medically, they will always keep dancing.

“Walt, the person who Teresa thinks is so funny, actually struggles from debilitating depression. But whenever Teresa is with him, his personality changes, and their laughter fills the room. For some reason, Teresa makes his darkness fade, and for a time he is able to enjoy himself.

“And then there is Lucille.” He discreetly pointed to a woman who was sitting on a sofa near a corner of the room, looking at some photos. “She is ninety-one, and four months ago she lost her husband of sixty-eight years. She was completely devastated. The staff tried everything they could think of to keep Lucille’s mind occupied and to help her focus on something other than her grief, but nothing worked.

“And then one night Teresa came in and saw her for the first time. On that particular evening, Lucille was distraught. I stood right here and watched as Teresa went over, sat down, put her arms around her and held her. They were total strangers to each other, but Teresa didn’t hesitate. She just sat and held Lucille while she cried. Not a single word was spoken.

“Eventually she calmed down, and Teresa was able to ask what was troubling her. When Lucille said she’d lost her husband, Teresa did something remarkable. She simply asked Lucille to tell her about him.

“We had spent weeks trying to redirect her and help her avoid her pain when what she really wanted, and needed, was to talk about the man she loved dearly. That evening they sat together for several hours and Lucille poured out her heart about the person who had been the center of her life. For the most part, Teresa just sat and listened. Occasionally she would ask a question, but she seemed to understand that she did not need to try to cheer her up. She did not feel compelled to fill every span of silence with words. She just remained attentive and caring. It was exactly what Lucille needed.

“That was when I realized that Teresa has a natural ability to connect with our people in a way that can be a struggle for the rest of us.”  

Marilyn didn’t know what to say. “This is unbelievable.”

“In the three months she’s been here, I’ve watched her time and again gravitate to the people who need her most. She seems to know instinctively who requires attention.”

Mr. Wyatt tried to sum it up as best he could. “It comes down to this. The residents light up when Teresa returns in the evening and spends time with them. As soon as she arrives, the entire atmosphere changes for the better. She has a tremendous gift that she willingly shares with no thought for herself.

“The residents have no idea she is coming in on her own time. And she has never mentioned it to any of her coworkers in the kitchen.”

With great admiration, Mr. Wyatt said, “Teresa has the ability to see the person, not the diagnosis. In this line of work, it’s easy to fall into the trap of considering someone only in terms of the challenges they’re facing. But Teresa has made a significant impact on the way I see each individual. That’s why I no longer think of her as a person with a developmental disability. She is just Teresa Hampton, a young woman I’ve come to know and respect. Now I see a beautiful human being – nothing more.”

He paused for a moment and then said, “I think I have benefited more from your experiment than Teresa has.”

Marilyn realized he was right. Mr. Wyatt did indeed seem different from the person who had reluctantly agreed to her proposition.

“So, after considering all the pertinent facts, I have arrived at my decision. In my opinion, the kitchen is not the appropriate place for Teresa, but I strongly believe that she belongs at this facility. What Teresa can do is rare and difficult to define. It’s not found on an employment application. It’s not something that’s examined during a job evaluation – and yet, for an organization like ours, it is incredibly valuable.”

Mr. Wyatt paused for a moment as he searched for the right words, “Her talent is the way she makes our people feel. Teresa’s gift is her compassion, and that’s why it is not an overstatement to say that the residents love her.

“When you initially proposed your idea, you told me that it was your hope to bring two different vulnerable groups together to see if they could interact and support each other. I believe that is exactly what has happened. This may not have worked out the way you intended but to my way of thinking it has been a stunning success on a far more important level than just providing one person with a steady job.”

Then with his voice turning serious, Mr. Wyatt said, “I’m not hiring Teresa because of what she can or cannot do. I’m hiring her because of who she is; a kind, caring, considerate person who thinks of others first.”

Marilyn and Mr. Wyatt watched as Teresa spoke a few more comforting words to Shelly. Convinced that her friend was okay, she stood up and walked over to them. “I am surprised to see you two, but I’m so glad you’re here.”

She reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out an envelope addressed to Paul. “Here you go. I was going to give it to you at the meeting today, but I was so nervous I forgot.”

Mr. Wyatt asked, “What is this?”

Teresa smiled. “Just open it up. There’s a note inside.”

Mr. Wyatt looked at Marilyn and shrugged. Carefully he opened the envelope, but what he found inside surprised him. Slowly he pulled out five twenty-dollar bills. “I don’t understand.”

Teresa replied, “Please, just read the note.”

He unfolded the note and read out loud. “Here is $100.00 to pay for all the dishes I’ve broken. I’ve been saving up for a while. I’m sorry they slip out of my hands, and I will keep trying to do better. I love this home. Thank you for letting me work here.”

Marilyn bit her lip in an effort to hide her emotion.

Mr. Wyatt looked down at the tiny woman in front of him. “Teresa, I can’t take this money.”

“Why not? I’m the one who always drops the plates.”

Mr. Wyatt smiled. “That won’t happen anymore.”

Teresa was confused. “What do you mean?”

“I have good news. I would like to offer you a new job here at our facility.”

“I’m not going to work in the kitchen anymore?”

“No.”

Teresa was hesitant. “What kind of work will I be doing?”

Mr. Wyatt said, “Your title will be Therapeutic Assistant.”

Teresa was not sure. “That sounds even harder than washing dishes.”

The Director smiled. “Teresa, it’s a job you’ve been doing for several months.”

Marilyn realized she was experiencing a moment that she could not have envisioned ninety days ago.

Mr. Wyatt continued. “Let me ask you a question. Why do you spend your evenings in this room after working all day in the kitchen?”

“Because it makes me happy,” Teresa said. “They are my friends, and I care about them. The residents make me feel good. They make me feel needed and wanted.”

Mr. Wyatt agreed. “That is right. They do need you and they want you to be here……and so do I. That’s why I want you to consider changing your hours. We would like for you to work from 12:00 noon to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. That way you can spend the maximum amount of time possible with the residents – your friends.”

Teresa surprised Mr. Wyatt by spontaneously reaching out and hugging him. “That would be wonderful!”

Marilyn watched in amazement as the Director let his guard down. Holding Teresa’s hands, Mr. Wyatt said, “However, changing jobs will affect your pay.”

Teresa shrugged. “I don’t care if my pay goes down. The money doesn’t matter. I’m just happy I get to work with everyone.”

Mr. Wyatt said, “I’m afraid you don’t understand. Right now you are making minimum wage working in our kitchen. If you work directly with the residents you will get a $3.00 raise. You will be paid $10.25 an hour – and you get your $100.00 back. You don’t have to worry about breaking dishes anymore.”

Teresa looked down at the floor and said, “This is too good to be true.”

Without thinking, Marilyn agreed. “Yes, it is.”

Mr. Wyatt gently responded. “I want both of you to understand that this is not some kind of gift. Teresa, you have earned the right to have this job. You are being given this position, with this pay, because you deserve it.”

Teresa looked up, “I don’t know what to say. I was scared after the meeting that I would lose my job – not get a better one.”

Mr. Wyatt understood. “It seems like a better job because you’re good at. All I ask is that you come to work each day and just be yourself. Your assignment will be to help the residents in any way you can. If they need a blanket, you will get them one. If they want a cup of tea, you’ll bring it to them. If they need someone to talk to, you will listen. You’ll just continue to care for them like you have for the last couple of months.”

Mr. Wyatt extended his hand. “Do you want the job?”

“Yes!!” Teresa shook his hand with both of hers. “Can I start tomorrow?”

Mr. Wyatt laughed. “That would be fine.”

Teresa turned to Marilyn. “Thank you so much, Mrs. Barnes for giving me the chance to have a job. I will never forget it. Never ever.”

Marilyn hugged her. “I don’t think I’m ever going forget this either.”

From the corner of the room, Lucille’s voice called out. “Teresa! I’ve got photos I want to show you.”

Teresa turned and looked at Mr. Wyatt. He smiled and motioned her away. “Go. You have work to do.”

Teresa went to Lucille and plopped down next to her. Marilyn watched as the frail lady spread a photo album across both of their laps and started sharing a lifetime of memories with someone who was delighted to enjoy them with her.

Mr. Wyatt turned to Marilyn. “I hope that you understand why I wanted you to return this evening. It’s more powerful to see the interaction with your own eyes than to have someone describe it.”

“Absolutely.” It was hard for Marilyn to believe everything that had happened. “I had no idea why you asked me to come back, but I’m so thankful you did.”

Mr. Wyatt’s usual businesslike tone suddenly softened. “Mrs. Barnes, I would like to repeat this experiment with your organization. Of course, I can’t guarantee this kind of dramatic result, but please submit two more individuals, one man, and one woman, for a ninety-day trial, and let’s see if we can successfully employ them.”

Marilyn smiled at the man who now seemed far less intimidating. “Thank you. You have been patient, thoughtful and generous. Most of all, I appreciate you keeping an open mind. That is, unfortunately, an attitude I rarely encounter.”

“It was my pleasure.” They shook hands, and Mr. Wyatt walked with her to the front lobby.

As Marilyn stepped through the doors into the warm evening air, she knew she had just learned an important lesson. She had gotten so caught up in the nuts and bolts of the job requirements that she had forgotten about the human side of the equation. She could not help but marvel that it was the stoic Paul Wyatt who was able to appreciate that a small compassionate woman was not a liability because she broke dishes but rather she was an invaluable asset because she could mend broken hearts.

 

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