Monday, September 27, 2010

It is what it is ... or is it? Seeing things as they appear to be is typically what we do without even thinking. A massive bank of puffy white clouds may look like a massive bank of puffy white clouds until you stretch out in the grass. Magically a whole zoo full of animals appears in the sky. I lived in a house for a year and never saw the perfectly shaped owl on the end of the custom oak breakfast island until I sat down on the stairway one day. Before I discovered the owl, it had simply been a breakfast island. The carpenter died before I had the chance to ask him if it was intentional or accidental artwork.

Recently I watched an interview with Anne Beiler, the founder of Auntie Anne’s pretzels. It’s impossible for me to walk within 25 yards of an Auntie Anne’s in the mall or an airport and not give in. I always justify it telling myself I haven’t had one since the last time I was in a mall or airport like I rarely get to either of those places.

I envisioned Auntie Anne a stay at home mom who stumbled on to a way to bring in extra income for her family. She and her husband, Jonas, started the company in 1988 and sold it in 2005 with 850 locations. Today there are over 1000 Auntie Anne’s located worldwide. At first look, I saw a lucky woman who is worth millions. As the interview unfolded I stared amazed and admittedly a bit ashamed because I had thought she was just another inventor of a money making machine.

She is one of three sisters who grew up in a tight knit Amish community in Pennsylvania. For several years she slogged through deep agonizing pain beginning with the death of her toddler daughter. Anne’s sister backed over her when the child ran behind the tractor she was driving. Then she went on to explain a chain of events involving her pastor, her betrayal of Jonas and alienation from her sisters. It was heartbreaking.

She did finish the interview talking about her journey though redemption, love, grace and forgiveness. I discovered the person behind the mega millions pretzel was so much more than a smiling woman in an apron.

That interview made me consider the times I’ve written someone off or prejudged a circumstance. Things aren’t always what they seem. There’s more than likely a back story to be uncovered. I want to become someone who takes the time to look beyond the obvious.

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