patienceShe has been described as hard headed, proud and dignified, an optimist and also pessimistic.

Her heart and soul revolved around her family. They were her greatest joy and the source of her deepest sorrow. She was a constant reminder of love and perseverance. She touched everyone who surrounded her with her quick wit, the stories of days gone by and her unbending beliefs and principles of life that she lived by.

I was asked recently who my greatest teachers have been. Without a doubt this woman is at the top of my list. I’d like to share with you who this teacher is. Tell you how she has changed my life and the way I now interact in life and business. My greatest teacher is Amanda Knorr. You likely have not heard of Amanda.

Who Was Amanda?

She was not a classroom teacher, an author or famous speaker: she was a life teacher. I met Amanda in the year 2000. She had just turned 85. I was introduced to her as a volunteer. Amanda had been living with macular degeneration for 10 years, and it had slowly been robbing her of her sight. She lived in the same small home that she and Charlie, her deceased husband, purchased in 1940. Her home was her safe haven and the gathering place for her children, grandchildren and then great grandchildren. Amanda was not the easiest person to be with.

Every week I would venture to her home for my one-hour visit. It became a routine of opening mail, reading to her, eventually her trust in me and the need to be more and more her eyes led to increased duties of, paying bills, calling doctors, and coordinating appointments and trips. It all seems mundane and simple, yes. Imagine if you will, entering the house through the same door―every time, placing your coat in the exact same place―every time, opening the mail in the very same way―every time, writing checks and tracking payments―every time―the exact same way. Now I’m pretty intelligent, and the tasks were never mind bending. What drove me crazy was to be reminded and instructed how to perform these tasks every single week!

When I Realized

After a couple months of this I began to dread my time with her. Did she not think I understood? Why does she have to remind me every time?? I became more and more frustrated and wanted to quit, but something kept drawing me back. It was the smile on her face when I arrived; it was her hand reaching across the table to hold mine, thanking me for helping her. It was the peace and serenity on her face when I would read a story birds flying through the sky, about animals romping and playing in the woods and beautiful nature scenes that were brought alive for her through her mind’s eye.

It was definitely the smile on her face and her gentle wave from her front door when I pulled out of her driveway and beeped my horn signaling that all was well and I was safely on my way home. The joy these little moments brought her was what continued to draw me back. I decided that I had to release my frustration and come into my relationship with her newly. I came to realize that losing her sight was very scary, and her control of the way things are done was unnerving to her as well. That is why she repeated the directions. She was losing control, and if I could provide one moment of knowing of order and control in her life, that was my role. My frustration made this engagement about me. If I am to truly serve her (and that is the point of volunteering), then I had to leave my ego at the door to enter her domain. This challenge of mine required me to adopt some new ways of being.

It required:

PATIENCE “It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.” ―Julius Caesar

And to be patient meant that I had to go into the situation:

EMPTY Webster’s Definition of Empty: Containing nothing, devoid of any content.

To me this meant that I totally let go of any preconceived notion or personal agenda. I was there to totally serve Amanda and her needs.

Amanda lived to 102 years old and I volunteered my time with her for ten years. The lessons of patience and being empty that Amanda taught me have followed me in every walk of my life. I am a better listener to my friends and family. I am a better coach and professional when I put my agenda to the side and focus on the person in front of me; their needs and desires unfold when my agenda is silenced. This tribute to Amanda is my way of holding her close. I miss her and carry her with me as I fulfill my purpose in life with gratitude to her as one of my greatest teacher.

Where have the unlikely teachers shown up in your life and business?