• Thomas A. Wilson

Left in Stitches

My friend Jeff Jillson owns a French Bulldog/Chihuahua mix named Stitch. During the puppy stage, Stitch’s ears were impossibly large—hence the name. Now full grown, the dog looks bulldoggish, but is diminutive. He’s a little guy. No doubt his inner canine is conflicted. Size and continental pedigree call for a certain conservative deportment, but the Latin influence surfaces in the right circumstances.

Jeff, a soft-spoken people person, is one of the best real-estate agents in northern Idaho. Windermere, Coeur d’Alene, is lucky to have him. Not only that, Jeff loves his family, is a good neighbor, attends one of the top 100 most influential churches in America, and is very kind to clients who freak-out during the complex and traumatic process of purchasing a home. He’s also polite to solicitors.

I confess to impatience with solicitors. I really don’t like cold calls over the phone, and I just don’t purchase anything at my front door. At this point, my politics and my faith are set—so, I just as soon not deal with any interruptions. Sheri thinks I should be more gracious, and she’s probably right. But some things evoke a visceral response. Nothing personal, but politicians, missionaries, and salespeople should just skip my house—it’ll save us both time and aggravation. Mitt Romney, who at one time or another held all three positions, is the exception. If he came to the door, I’d ask him in for a drink—of juice, or something.

But Jeff Jillson isn’t like me. He’s a better person. So, when a young man came to his door selling magazines, Jeff was nice. The lad said he was working his way through college, but something about his spiel was a little sketchy. Jeff couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Stitch was not impressed. Dogs, which seem to be good judges of people, seldom withhold an opinion at the front door. While the neighborhood park might demand a bit more diplomacy, Chihuahua types are quick to say, “Mi casa no es tu casa, guey!” on the front porch. And that’s what Stitch did. He kind of went nuts, “bark, Bark, BARK, BARK, bark, bark-bark,” he said. So, Jeff picked him up. You can do that with little dogs. It embarrasses them, but you can do it. Try picking up a German Shepherd; you’re the one likely to be embarrassed. Seriously.

Jeff had one hand on the doorknob, and the other hand wrapped around Stitch, just under the animal’s front legs. Stitch, not to be dissuaded, and who was encouraged by closer proximity to the interloper’s face, continued to vocalize.

But the seller wasn’t about to be outdone by some runt-dog in suburbia. He continued to slather on the blarney—Elmer Gantry would have been proud. But the tide was about to turn. The young man deftly reached into his back pocket to retrieve a neatly folded flyer containing the catalog of supposedly available magazines. With no small amount of cocky panache, the confident caller flicked the folded glossy paper with one hand in order to open it. He had undoubtedly done so a thousand times before. The paper caught the air and make a loud pop as it unfurled. The purveyor of pulp grinned at another successful demonstration of dexterity. But Stitch was not amused.

Stitch was terrified. What witchcraft could produce such a sound? Surely, no earthly beast could utter such a bark! So, Stitch let loose. Not consciously, mind you. It was an entirely limbic response. The dog voided his bladder. A golden rainbow arc flowed in the space between seller and prospect.

The young man managed to force out a few more words, but haltingly stopped talking as he took stock of the situation. Both he and Jeff stared at the urinating dog. Finally, Jeff broke the silence, “I think we’re done here,” he said. Then the slump-shouldered salesman slipped away.

The whole exchange was captured by Jeff’s ring video doorbell.

The critical flaw in the magazine salesperson’s presentation is found in his motivation. His motivation was exploitative, not redemptive. Jeff understands about redemptive motivation. He doesn’t “sell” properties—he let’s people buy them. That is, he views his role as being an expert facilitator. He learns what people need, factors in available resources, then he helps them avoid pitfalls as they get what they want and need. The mag lad didn’t even notice that he was in the presence of someone who could mentor him to higher ground. He was focused on cashing in on a sale, and it took a peeing dog to knock him off agenda.

That’s a characteristic of underliving men. They, by necessity, are their own teacher. Betrayal or neglect by some significant role model left them to fend for themselves. Some end up slangin’ more than magazines. Then, they hang out with other like-minded men (birds of a feather…) creating an underliving culture.

A friend of mine in the mental health field put it this way. People are born wired for connection. Trauma rewires for protection. That’s why people with adverse childhood experiences have difficulty in relationships.

Real men connect with others to impart and receive what’s good. They make life a better experience, and the world a better place. They understand that their story will one day be replayed—that, one way or the other, they’ll give account. And they want the story to reflect their authentic desire to be found true.


Just as encountering a sick person enables the spread of the flu, words can be used to promote sickness. Manipulation, the exercise of influence to achieve a desired result at the expense of another, is bad mojo. Manipulation always crumbles under the weight of the exploited and disenfranchised.

Affirmation of the week: I cause everything I touch to grow by quickly recognizing when my motivation exploits or withers. Then, I change my mind in order to serve the thing that is the object of my attention.

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