Recently I purchased a small travel bag in a small store in Utah. There was only one other customer in the store, so it was him, me, and the clerk (Faye). Later I discovered there was a second clerk in the back room, but that really has nothing to do with this tale.

As I was paying for my purchase, Faye (the clerk) asked: Do you travel a lot?

Me: Yes.

Faye: For business or pleasure?

Me: Both.

Faye: This is a great bag, it will be perfect for business travel.

I couldn’t have agreed more. And then another life-altering experience began..

What do you do, what is your business? (asked Faye).

Now any CEO or fundraiser knows that this is the golden question. Once they ask, the door is wide open for you to jump in and provide all the information you can. But my style is a bit different, and I responded with enough information to either gain her further attention or to recognize my business wasn’t her cup of tea:

Me: I work with a nonprofit organization called 10,000 Beds. We help addicts who need treatment but can’t afford it. We help them find a treatment center and sponsor some of their out-of-pocket costs.

(Audible gasp from Faye)

Faye: I have a son who needs your card. I worry about him all the time. He’s an addict but hasn’t admitted it and won’t change. I’m so scared for him.

Me: I know that feeling all to well, I’ve spoken with many parents who have experienced what you’re going through.

Faye: I’m so impressed with your organization’s mission. 

This conversation continued for about 5 minutes, when the only other customer in the store moved closer to where we were talking (remember, I mentioned him earlier?) – he had been inching closer throughout the entire conversation between Faye and me. And I could tell he was listening. And then a flurry of questions followed, from him:

Him: Why are you involved in this nonprofit? What is your motivation? Who would donate for this kind of thing? How do you identify clients? How do you find good treatment centers? What costs do you cover? Can you work with people without insurance? Your organization sounds awesome!

I could barely answer one question before he asked another. And I liked him. I liked his demeanor, his curiosity, his courage…there was just something about him that I really liked. So finally, after answering his questions one-by-one, I asked him a question:

Me: Why are you so interested? What’s your connection?

Him: I am in recovery. 

I could only smile. He was awesome. Totally unassuming and yet totally understanding the mission of 10,000 Beds.

Him: I started my own business. I’m doing OK. It’s hard sometimes, but I’m doing OK.

The conversation continued for another few minutes, with words of encouragement going both ways – from me to him, and from him to me. We both want the other to succeed in our respective connections to addiction recovery. I was so proud of this young man. And I felt connected, for no good reason. We were just two customers in a small store. But I wanted to hug him, to have him check in with me from time to time…of course, I didn’t do or say either, but I still wanted that! I gave him my card and told him to call if he was ever tempted. He promised he would.

And Faye was so grateful to have someone she might call in the future, if she needed help or guidance. Again, connected.

No matter where I go, if I have the opportunity to talk about what I do, I find myself surrounded by an audience of interested people. It amazed me at first, but now I’m used to it. I’ve even given it an unofficial name: The Addiction Connection.

It is real. And provides for many interesting conversations in new places with new people.

And that’s what we’re all about. People. And saving lives.

We’re all connected. Thank God.

I’m in. For good.