A point where two or more things are joined.”the junction of the two rivers”
In a recent post where I talked about how I’m just dang lucky for so many things in life, I included a bit of an Easter Egg about my new career. Well I suppose I really can’t call it a new career, rather it is me returning to something I did quite a bit of in a prior lifetime – retail sales.
The week before the Thanksgiving holiday, I drove down to the Old Mill District here in Bend, to report for my first day of training at REI. For those not familiar, REI is a co-op that was founded in 1938 by a couple of mountaineers who were not satisfied with the gear selection found in Seattle stores at the time.
From those humble beginnings, REI now has 20 million members, 168 locations in 39 different states in the US, and almost 15,000 employees – and I’m now contributing to two of those statistics.
My last customer service oriented job was at Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, over a decade ago, and since I’ve been working remotely for the past 7+ years… well I was a bundle of nerves on that first day. But the team at the REI Bend store were very welcoming, and the onboarding was smooth, so I was feeling right at home rather quickly among the tribe of fellow outdoors enthusiasts.
I was certain I found a great crew to hang with, when the staff gathered the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving for the annual Twinkie Roast. The tradition was started in the 1970s at the Berkeley, CA store – REI lore states that after an evening bonfire that consumed various pairs of old skis, a Twinkie snack cake was tossed into the fire, and epic snow fell in the Sierra Nevada range that winter. Becky, Kaydee, and her friend Trili joined in on the fun – and yes, it did snow that evening!
I’m also happy to report that I sincerely love my new job. I most definitely took a pay cut with this move, but the more days I spend walking around on this planet – the more I realize that you can’t put a price tag on happiness. I sincerely look forward making the trip down to the Mill for my shifts. I imagine I’m an old time Bendite – going down to the lumber yard to clock in for a hard days work 😊
Beyond working with friendly and interesting folks, in a rad historic building, surrounded by outdoor toys, oh and those gear discounts – the thing I cherish most everyday I put on that green vest is the little junctions I have with others.
REI is a customer service first organization, and I was trained and encouraged often to not worry about the long line of customers waiting to check out – but instead to give the best service possible to the person I’m with at the present moment. I’ve leaned in hard to that guideline, and have experienced some amazing interactions with others who love to be outside.
While these interactions are brief, sometimes a customer will linger for five minutes chatting about memories from the outdoors, a dearly missed dog, or a big job change they have coming up. I am honored to be able to listen to their stories at that junction, share some of my own tales, and just be present with another human – and most importantly to make another friend along this trail of life.
Each night while eating dinner with my family, I enjoy sharing the stories I heard that day. Some are hilarious, others cause my eyes to well up thinking about them, and a few make me long for the good old days of Bend – but all of them make me feel rich in a way no paycheck could.
Because in this hectic life where it seems everywhere we look, we are being told to be divisive with our fellow humans – in these small junctions with others, instead I’m constantly reminded of how we are all so similar after all.
So friends – step away from the Zoom and FaceTime windows. Put away the screens, and get out there and make some junctions. Listen. Share. Feel. It is an amazing thing.
I have so many ideas for posts swimming in my noggin after being on this new journey for a few weeks. I hope to get some of those jotted down here soon… but today is a day off, so I’m going to go wander in the woods along a little creek with my dogs. Take care, and be kind.