Facebook has been a beautiful thing for small businesses like mine. I can friend the guests from my parties and then keep up with them. It’s fun to get to know them better and follow their lives as they get new jobs, get married, have babies. You are also privy to their bad news too.
Earlier this year, one of my customers died unexpectedly.
I was surprised about how much it effected me. She was an older woman. A funny lady. So full of life and spunk. I sent a sympathy card to her daughter who was also one of my customers. (Later, she told me that her sister opened it and asked who “Grace” was. “The sex toy lady,” she replied. Hah.) I checked in with her again since she had a party scheduled a couple weeks after to see if she still wanted to have it. She said, “Yes, it will be good for me.” I brought a present with me that night – a small set of windchimes with a dolphin on it. Dolphins were her mother’s favorite animal. She cried. I didn’t mean to make her cry, but I was glad to have touched her in that moment.
I heard more hard news this week.
One of my customers lost her baby at full term. I am devastated for her. My only daughter was stillborn in the winter of 2010. I know the grief all too well. It’s terrible. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy and wish there was something I could do to make it better. Since I heard, memories of the days and weeks following my own loss keep coming back to me. One of the things I remember most of all is all the kindness, gifts and letters I received from family, friends and even people I didn’t know very well. I kept them all and like the memories, I tucked them away and visit them secretly when my heart is missing my daughter too much.
I’m in the processes of packing up a little gift for this bereft young mother. Just one warm but, oh so inadequate thought to send to her in these dark days. She’s no longer just a woman who is my customer. She’s a friend. Even more, she’s part of a sad sisterhood that I regret we both belong to.
I think there is a great temptation to not let these experiences in.
To keep a wall between you and your customers. Don’t. This is what it is all about. Relationships, trust, caring – that’s what great business is based. Moreover, it is the basis of a great and fulfilled life.