The Two Flower Merchants
— Unknown, Paulo Coelho, Stories for Children, Parents, and Grandparents
One day, two flower merchants set up shop next to one another. They opened for business on the same day, carried the same lovely selection of aromatic flowers, and maintained similar prices for their marvelous plants. Both merchants took great care with raising their plants and both were kind and courteous to their customers. In fact, their stores appeared to be equal in every way.
At first, the merchants even received equal traffic through their shops, but - as time went on- the first merchant's shop became more popular among the people. The second merchant noticed this and became concerned. One particularly slow day, he decided to look into the matter. As he stepped out his door to visit his neighbor, he passed one of his regular customers leaving the first merchant's shop carrying their weekly purchase of flowers. In disbelief, the second merchant hurried into the next store.
Indeed, the store was teeming with customers. The second merchant noticed his competitor wasn't taking the money himself, as he always did. The first merchant was out among the aisles, talking with his customers. To his amazement, the second merchant watched as the first would chat at great length with the customers and even would occasionally talk to the flowers themselves! The second merchant prided himself on being serious store owner and could not understand this leisurely approach to running a shop. Yet this behavior seemed to be working for the first merchant, as his thriving store would attest.
When the second merchant could stand it no longer, he approached the first and politely asked to interrupt the conversation. The first merchant smiled, handed his customers to one of his clerks, and turned his attention to his exasperated neighbor.
The second merchant asked, "Brother, I am your humble student. Our stores are nearly the same in all ways, yet your results are doubling while mine are halving. I do not understand."
"Brother, the first merchant said, "We are the same in most ways, this is true. The difference lies in what we see with our hearts. You see your store as a store, your plants as plants, and your customer as customers. I see my store as beloved home and my cherished friends are my customers, clerks and plants, all present to be adored. In that way, we are very, very different.