I never understood the phrase, “We are all one.”
What does that even mean? I often wondered whenever this trendy phrase confronted me in spiritual lessons and teachings.
Even after enduring the biggest tragedy of my life and experiencing an awakening that cracked open a magical sixth sense–the idea of all of us being “one” was too big; way too nebulous; and far too woo-woo, even for me.
It wasn’t until I walked into Sit n’ Sleep earlier this year to buy a mattress that I experienced the magic of “oneness” and walked out with even more.
My story begins with “Uncle Doug,” a 25-year veteran of the mattress industry. The first time I visited this store, Uncle Doug showed me a handful of options in different price ranges to consider:
Organic cotton vs. non-organic; Memory Foam vs. latex; small coils vs. large ones; and glued vs. stitched.
As overwhelm flooded my system, my brain shut down, and my eyes started burning.
“Think about it,” Uncle Doug said, recognizing I wasn’t ready to make a purchase.
So, I did.
When I returned a few months later to try again, Uncle Doug walked me through more options and helped me narrow down my choices.
“I’ll be here when you’re ready,” he said with a note of confidence.
I ventured back into the shop a few months later and proudly announced to Uncle Doug, “I’ve narrowed my choices down to two mattresses.” Without further ado, he transformed into a wizard before my eyes and showered me with his mattress magic.
“First, let me explain the most important differences between these two mattresses,” Uncle Doug said. In under two minutes, he described what mattered most about the design and construction of each one. He was precise, knowledgeable, and incredibly articulate.
“Now, I want to explain the production cycle of each mattress,” he continued. “This matters to some people.”
He enlightened me about all the human hands, minds, and technologies that went into a single mattress, and as he walked me through the production and distribution chain, a portal of gratitude opened up and sucked me in.
Suddenly, I saw the soil, crops, and other natural resources that had contributed to each mattress, and I found myself caring about how they were treated. I felt a deep appreciation for the farmers, designers, truck drivers, factory and warehouse workers, distributors, and everyone in between who contributed to every inch of the mattress in front of me.
As my respect for Uncle Doug grew exponentially, I felt grateful that he had chosen to spend so much of his professional life helping people he didn’t even know, like me, sleep well.
That was the moment I began to appreciate how the energy of money circulates and impacts a supply chain of lives and how the experience of purchasing a mattress was not merely transactional but transformational.
Uncle Doug nailed it. I finally knew which mattress I wanted and why. When a look in his eye told me he approved of my final choice, I teared up and got unusually emotional about buying a product full of so many people’s time, energy, and hard work.
I proceeded to follow Uncle Doug to his workspace to pay.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing up at a Post-it attached to a vinyl record on his shelf.
“That’s my band’s album,” he said. “I’m a drummer and a backup singer.”
“Oh, nice,” I said. “What kind of music?”
“Rock,” he smiled. “We’ve released two albums.”
“What’s the TTM on the Post-it stuck to the album?” I asked, which is what I was initially curious about.
“Oh, that,” he said, “It’s an inside company sales thing. Something that motivates us.”
“Ah, got it,” I said, not wanting to pry.
“Why?” he asked.
My eyes watered again. “I had a 12-year-old son who passed away five years ago, and his initials were TM. Every time I see a TM, I think of him and hope it’s some sort of sign that he’s nearby. I know that sounds crazy.”
“I think it makes life more fun!” he said, smiling, before giving me his condolences.
I quickly changed the topic.
“Can I take a picture of you and share you with my community?” I asked him. “Maybe someone else needs to buy a mattress.” And experience your magic, I added in my head.
He graciously accepted my offer before proudly adding, “I’ve also written two books.”
“Really?” I asked. “What kind?”
“One is a collection of short stories. The other is on the Korean War.”
Before I could ask more questions, he got up to retrieve my receipt from the printer.
Uncle Doug is so much more than a great mattress salesman, I thought to myself. He has written books. He makes music. This is a guy who is really making the most of this lifetime!
At that moment, I was reminded that every one of us has a unique story. And every story has something meaningful to teach.
We really can’t judge a book by its cover, I thought to myself.
As if my sixth sense had activated and we could hear each other’s thoughts, Uncle Doug handed me my receipt and said, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
I stared at him and exclaimed, “I just had that same exact thought about you a fraction of a second before you said that!”
He showed me the goosebumps on his arms – I showed him mine – and then we shared a good laugh.
“I’m retiring in a year or so,” Uncle Doug smiled. “I’ve done well. And it’s time for me to venture off into the world and see what’s next.”
“Good for you,” I responded, realizing there comes a time when life nudges us to try something new and experience more.
“Any idea what’s next?” I asked him.
“Nope,” he said. “I just know it’s time.”
I sat there feeling oddly comforted that transformation comes for all of us and that whether we are conscious of it or not, when one of us changes on the inside, there’s a ripple effect not only within but also in our communities and the world.
When I got up to leave, Uncle Doug shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “I understand loss.”
“You do?” I asked.
“I won’t go into it,” he said, “but I have lived my share of loss and know what it’s like. What I know for sure is that you are a much deeper and thoughtful person because of your son.”
“Thank you, Uncle Doug,” I said, giving him a hug. “I think that’s true.”
As he wiped a tear from his eyes, he walked me to the exit and wished me well on my way out.
“Look out for my article,” I shouted back at him from the parking lot.
“Not everyone likes what I have to say,” he warned.
“That’s okay,” I laughed. “I don’t think anyone will get too worked up about a mattress story!”
But when I drove away, I knew this story was about far more than a mattress, and so was Uncle Doug.