Don’t Be a Door Mat

It’s summer time in beautiful Lake Chelan, WA. This sleepy little burg of 6,000 full time residents comes alive like Peter Frampton’s 1976 album. 250,000 people converge on this 55-mile long lakefront community from May to October. My wife and I spend as much time as we can here in the summer.

With every rose comes a few thorns. We had not been back to our condo for several weeks and my neighbor Ben’s place had been rented by a woman with five kids. Yikes. Nine pounds of coffee in a five pound can. However, they seemed nice enough. The other day my wife said to me, “Hey, didn’t you buy a door mat for the front porch last year?” A little puzzled, I replied, “Yes. I got it at Ace hardware, it just says WELCOME.” Smiling she said, “It’s in front of our neighbors place!?”

I thought perhaps it was a simple misunderstanding, so I moved it without saying anything back to it’s rightful place. The next morning, it had magically moved back from #206 to #205!?

Now, I am upset. I knocked on their door, a woman answered. Without waiting for her to speak, I said, “I own the place next door, #206. I also own this WELCOME mat, I bought it last year at Ace hardware. Please leave it where it belongs, in front of my door!” I left without waiting for a response. Not a good idea. I should have talked it through, gotten her side of the story. Hey, I’m a guy. No excuse, but a reason. Pride, ego, fear.

The next day it was back in front of her door. I thought of a dozen clever (and mean) things to say or do, eventually choosing the path of least resistance. I moved the mat inside. Evidently, “No one is WELCOME” (or happy). Then I did what I seem to do best, I stewed about it. Resentment is liking taking poison and expecting the other person to die. It’s a misuse of the imagination. I talked about it with my wife. She is the calm voice of reason and objectivity. “Let it go…” was all she said. “But, Tom Jefferson’s quote, ‘In matters of style, swim with the current, in matters of principle, stand like a rock!’ “ I refuse to be a Door Mat!” She gave me shrug, smiled and walked away.

My good friend and speaker buddy Kevin Knebl (K2 as I call him, he loves to ski) called and we talked about the business of speaking. We always learn a lot from each other. I ran my recent little “Tempest in a Teapot” by him. He is a “Relationship and Communication Expert” (and one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.) He listened and proceeded to offer some great advice. “Mark, you quit smoking cigars, right? How much did you pay for the Welcome Mat. Didn’t you used to smoke cigars that cost more than that Mat? How important is this really? Why not go down to Ace, buy an exact mat, put a bow and a note, place it on her front door and move on?” I thought of the Winston Churchill quote: “I am always willing to learn, I just don’t like to be taught.” Upon reflection, the next day, I took K2’s advice. I bought the exact Welcome Mat, put a bow on it with the following note translated into Spanish:

Please accept this gift
Por favor acepte este regalo

I hope we can be friends.
Espero que seamos amigos

She wasn’t home when I dropped it off, but her children answered the door and were positively giddy about the new mat. They gave me high fives and said “Muy Bueno!”

It’s getting easier to be a nice guy, but it’s not my natural state. I have to work at it. Is it nature or nurture? I’m not certain. What I do know for sure is how true the following little verse is:

“Only one life that soon is past, Only what’s done with love will last.”

We can be assertive, yet kind; strong yet compassionate; objective yet caring. I don’t have to make a bad situation worse.

I don’t know that I ever will be friends with these neighbors, as Chelan is such a transitory and seasonal environment, but one thing is certain, as a result of Kevin’s advice and my actions, I won’t be making it worse. Life is short. Too short to BE-Little.

It’s supposed to be 92 degrees today and the lake is cold but refreshing. I’m off for a nice swim. When I get back I’ll wipe my feet on my mat and feel WELCOME. I hope my neighbor feels the same way.

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