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The thing I love most about being a real estate agent is the same thing that once filled me with dread and fear. Something so painfully out of character for me that I would do just about anything to avoid it.

I’m talking about knocking on doors.

If I could have seen myself in a mirror the first time I did it, I’m sure I would have been appalled. There was probably a trickle of sweat running down the side of my face. No doubt I was wringing the life out of some comp sheet or whatever leave-behind I had brought along to justify my visit. And of course there was my smile – God help me – the forced, deer-in-the-headlights kind of smile guaranteed to ruin any chance I might otherwise have of connecting with anyone.

But then there was another door. And another. Then fifty. Five hundred. And eventually, after I had enough of those doors slammed in my face, I stopped thinking about myself and the outcome and started to enjoy the simple, poignant humanity of the exercise.

And the strangest thing happened.

It started to be fun.

Take yesterday, for example.

I spoke to an elegant gentleman who was grieving the loss of his wife. Although it had been a year since she passed, the man confessed that everything in the house reminded him of her and that he still couldn’t bring himself to sleep in their bedroom. I told him about a client who had suffered a similar loss and had resisted moving for the very same reason, but that when he finally did it opened up his life again.

I chatted with an eclectic woman with a streak of blue in her hair whose world-class art collection was covered in plastic after a pipe in the ceiling had burst. I gave her the name of a great contractor and she gave me the names of two up-and-coming artists she was keeping her eye on.

I conversed with an exhausted thirty-something couple who were renting a house that was way too small for them. While their three young kids ran wild in the background, we talked about neighborhoods with good public schools.

Of course my encounters are not always this interesting. There are times when the whole door-knocking routine is a slog. But most days I think of it this way: what other job would allow me to be invited into the homes of total strangers? To learn about the ups and downs of their lives? And maybe, should I be lucky enough, to have the honor of helping some of those people make a decision that could literally change their lives?