I will be tucking this away into my Sunshine File (for someday when I need an emotional pick-me-up) … but before I do that, I need to say a few words to my co-workers and colleagues. As I shared in a previous reflection, this year at our office, we were invited to resurrect the old elementary school ritual of offering little Valentines Day cards to our co-workers and colleagues. There was no pressure to participate … and whether you joined in or not … this tribute is dedicated to each and every one of the employees in our office.
You know who you are … but for those who don’t, I work in a multidisciplinary office where there are counsellors, youth/parenting coaches, several public health nurses, a physiotherapist, some speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, a public health inspector, a number of practicum students, some outreach workers for populations who are considered within the human services arena to be ‘at promise’ (i.e. at higher risk), an outreach worker for senior citizens and the marvelous administration team that holds us all together.
So, harkening back to grade school, we were provided stickers, papers, markers, colors, envelopes and a vast assortment of little cards with popular children’s characters/themes on them. We got to decorate a big red envelope that would be stapled to the bulletin board in the coffee room … altruistically intended for us to give and receive a little love from each other.
I’m guessing it’s been about 45+ years since I’ve done that … and despite the benevolent intentions that I know inspired it, I had some mixed emotions about doing it again. You see, I remain haunted by some misty, melancholic memories of those hand-made holders that we annually crafted for public display in my early school years. By February 14th, some of them were stuffed to over-flowing and mounted on the wall, in stark and sobering comparison, beside the ones that stayed uncomfortably empty. My heart painfully ached for the kids who never seemed to get much visible validation from their peers honoring/valuing their presence in our class.
And, I also remember my own anxious trepidation … my fret-filled fears that my friends would get way more cards than I did (of course we counted them!) … OR … that I wouldn’t get a card from someone I really hoped to get one from … OR … that I wouldn’t get an equal and/or reciprocal nod from someone I might not have known very well but for whom I had vulnerably risked expressing some affection or admiration.
I cannot even begin to express how anxiety provoking it was for me in those tender, formative years. Putting your heart out into the world … or into someone’s envelope … is such daring, risky business. It leaves one ripe for all kinds of rejection (real or imagined). It felt like every single card represented tangible proof and/or unarguable evidence of your personal worth or miserable lack of it. For the all too sensitive me, it was like purposely inviting all the worries and insecurities that were persistently perched like perilous piranhas in my subconscious mind to promptly pounce up and devour my unguarded heart.
Anyway … although all THAT old stuff blind-sided me for a brief moment when I got the email invitation to participate, I decided not to let those recalcitrant rumblings dissuade me. The whole experience turned out to be nothing short of stellar … in the shining star sense of the word! It was heart-warming and wonderful for me. It was somewhat sublime to marinade in the energy of appreciation as I reflected upon the things I admired, valued and wished for my coworkers. I noticed there were NO empty envelopes and no one was comparing or counting the number of cards. From what I could see, only the sheer sweetness of the sentimental exchange was stirring in our souls. And it was entirely enchanting to see peoples hearts swell with eager anticipation as they tucked their envelopes under their arms and/or to notice their eyes well up a wee bit and/or the corners of their mouth turn upward when they peeked at a card or two. And so, for the staff who opted to participate, I want to THANK YOU for pacifying the pesky piranhas this year and filling my envelope with warm reassurance that my presence in our office space is appreciated in some meaningful ways.
But, even more than that, I realized in doing this that I owed my heartfelt gratitude to ALL of my amazing colleagues and incredible co-workers. I want to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for filling my heart … on a regular basis. Whether we are children or adult professionals, we all have a deep need to feel safe, respected and significant to others. It is pure pleasure to bask in the energy of expressed affection and appreciation that permeates our office day in and day out. It just never gets old. And I want to use this space to publicly applaud ALL of you … for the energy you bring to our office space.
The blessings and gifts of your collective presence are not lost on me. Not everyone gets to say that about their workplace. Not everyone feels safe and supported where they work. Not everyone is met with grins and cheery “hellos” when they cross paths with a colleague in the hallway. Not everyone gets to laugh over lunch with others … sometimes about the most outrageous things! Not everyone gets to have juicy conversations about topics that really make you think … or really make you squirm (nurses can talk casually about ALL kinds of unspeakable things – even while you are eating)! 🙂
And, not everyone gets to start each work day off on the right foot by sharing coffee and conversation with folks that so generously radiate the light and love that is inherent in all of us. Not everyone gets the chance to embrace the blessings of belonging to a group of people who exude kindness, compassion, and empathy. Not everyone is welcomed into the heart spaces of their colleagues. Not everyone gets tenderly cradled by their coworkers when times are tough and it feels hard to find a smile. Not everyone gets to claim such precious moments in their workplace.
But … I do. And I haven’t always, so I don’t take it for granted. Not for one little minute. All it takes is one ‘bad apple’ (for lack of a better metaphor) to alter the atmosphere in the work space. And so, I cherish the warm, caring and supportive energy that greets me every morning as I turn my key into the door. I treasure the moments of shared humanity and humble presence that are downright palpable within this remarkable group of people.
I am so much better because I get to ‘work’ in your company. You invite me to be the best I can be … with each and every smile, with each and every conversation and with each and every interaction. I am grateful for each and every one of you. I truly am.
So thank you again to all of you … for all the ways you fill my heart. My work world is so much better because of you. Yes it is … and … I just thought you should know.
With a full heart, Karen
P.S. For those who might be wondering, my Sunshine File has morphed into a whole drawer in my file cabinet where I store meaningful mementos, greeting cards, letters, quotes, inspirational verses, pictures, drawings, poetry or anything else that will nourish my spirit when I am feeling emotionally depleted and/or just a little down in the dumps/discouraged. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend you start one!
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