Last week was a tough one for the Mitchell household. I kind of wrote about it in my last post on family emergencies. As the week went on, things got a lot better, and they continue to be very good as we begin this week.

There was an odd anomaly, at least in my eyes, that tells me I haven’t quite learned the game. A couple of days I went around this town with my mother, a town that’s not my hometown and a place I’m not all that familiar with. What I saw consistently occurring was something special and unexpected for me.

Almost every place we went, people knew who my mother was. They didn’t only know her face, but they knew her name. They seemed to have very friendly relationships with my mother, calling her by her first name and being really nice to her.

I wondered who this woman was, my mother. I started to wonder if I really knew her at all. Growing up, my mother would volunteer for things when we’d move around the world. Sometimes she’d get a regular job in some places.

Yet, my mother had never been the type to just openly trust people. We have always locked our doors, even while living on a military base. Mom has always been somewhat secretive about a lot of things, and thus had never had lots of close friends, only a few. Mom did her business, then came home.

But there seems to have been a metamorphosis in my mother. It seems that she’s realized, after my dad passed away and she had to also start taking care of her mother, that she really couldn’t do everything alone. That she needed friends, or at least friendly people, to help her with many of life’s new things. And they were new things to her; Dad used to take care of almost everything.

Mom came out of her shell. Sure, there’s still a bit she holds in reserve, but who doesn’t? But this is a woman who has met people, told them her name, remembers their names, and now can go almost anywhere in her town and meet someone she knows who’s willing to help her. Some might say that, after 22 years living in this town, she should have done that, but I’ve lived where I live for almost 35 years and I only know the names of a few people because I’m in the local chamber of commerce. And even fewer people know my name; that’s a shame.

There’s an interesting lesson built up in here. We can’t all be so insular that we don’t at least meet friendly people and give them the opportunity to know us better. Networking in business is all about relationships, but most of the time we’re doing this stuff to see what we can get out of it, not what everyone can share with each other. I’ve always considered myself one of those sharing people, but as I’ve watched my mother and her relationships with people, I’ve started to think that maybe I haven’t really been watching her all these years. Maybe I really haven’t done as well as I thought I had. And maybe I need to do a little bit more.

This morning’s leadership lesson comes courtesy of my mother; I’ll need to pay more attention, as I did when I was a kid. But I’ll really need to concentrate on the lessons now.