Thursday, July 31, 2008

Giving Gifts

I walk to work every day. It’s nothing righteous or even green, but it’s my time to get the blood flowing to my brain, think through the day’s projects and hopefully work off enough calories so that I can eat a real dinner. Besides, one advantage of being the owner of the company is the privilege of choosing the office location - just down the hill and across the bridge from our home. So my walk takes all of 15 minutes every morning. They are 15 minutes that I treasure, too. I count my many blessings, take deep breaths of clean, pure air, and plot new challenges for my team.

Yesterday, I was given a gift on my way to work. Totally out of the blue, a man ran up to me and handed me a card. It happened so quickly and so unexpectedly (not to mention the fact that I was in my own little world of thinking, planning and probably talking out loud) that I didn’t even get a good look at the man.

The card contained a hand-written note. In the note were some very nice comments made from someone who had, unbeknown to me, watched me walk to work every day for the past several weeks.

Weird, a little, but nonetheless, it was a nice gift.

I remember when I first started running for exercise. I started late in life – actually, the week before my 40th birthday. I was determined not to let myself age into a heavy, sedentary person, so I joined a running team and began preparing to run in the Hood-to-Coast, a local event that is very challenging and fun.

Those first runs were tortuously difficult. Within a mile or so, I was feeling ragged and exhausted. But then, out of nowhere, another runner would pass by me. If that person slowed down a little to smile and say, “You’re doing great,” or some other encouraging word, I found a new reserve of energy. It completely changed how I felt at that moment.

After my own little “aha” moment I determined to smile and say something positive to people I met every day. I realized that this is one of those rare and precious things: a gift, unexpected, from a stranger. And it can change the way the entire day proceeds.

I like to apply this concept in my work, too. As a boss, I sometimes have to remember that my own smile changes the work environment completely. A little joke, a small compliment – these are gifts I can give every single day.

I think of this, too, in terms of the people who provide direct care to seniors, either in a facility setting or in the home. Their work probably feels like my 6 mile run some days: exhausting, difficult and pretty unrewarding.

Taking just a minute to smile, say “Thanks” and make a comment: “You’ve got such a gentle touch,” for example, is an easy, free gift we can give that might just make a world of difference.

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