Life was a lot easier in my firefly-catching days.
Of course, times were different back then. Success meant winning the Skip-it competition in 4th grade, love was being told you were ‘pretty enough to be a Spice Girl’ and beauty was determined by the number of perfectly positioned badges I had earned at Girl Scout camp in the fall of ’94. Concepts like bills, heartache, and inferiority didn’t exist.
But my favorite thing about elementary school was the purity of everyone’s actions.
When my friends and I argued we’d always say ‘sorry’ and we’d always mean it. Hugs were in no short supply. If you needed something, anything–from a pencil to a slinky–and especially when you forgot your lunch at home, everyone at your table contributed perfect portions of animal crackers and fruit roll-ups, without be asked. It’s what we did.
But these were different times.
Now, I work for an organization that I love beyond what a few characters on a screen will allow me to express. I have amazingly bold, gifted, and talented co-workers who each come with their own set of pros and cons. But, I just finished a week where people weren’t willing to say sorry when it needed to be said and when I metaphorically got hurt on the playground, no one asked if I was ‘alright.’ The bottom line is, we’re older now and protect our egos over each other. We’ve become more concerned with judgments and insecurities, fearing what we don’t know rather than enjoying what we do have. We think about ‘potential shortcomings’ and assume the worst of one another as opposed to using our strengths to shield others’ weaknesses. It seems like my team has gotten to a place where we operate on the defense forgetting that no points can be scored without an active offense. Part of me wishes I had the strength to describe everything awful that happened this week and just how hurt and offended by the whole series I am, but I don’t. What I do have is the strength to explain the conversation I had with a coworker (from another team) last night and how he corrected what I once saw as weakness.
With tears hanging from my eyelashes in a dimly-lit Chiptole I stared down at the table ashamed to admit I was a part of a team that was hurting. I started off by rationalizing everything that everyone did that was wrong. I created excuses and hoped for a different outcome to a story I already knew the ending of. And after 12 minutes of talking in circles and avoiding naming names I took a deep breathe and sighed, “I wonder if the problem is me….” I struggled all week in deciding who was to blame. I only wanted to know where it all went wrong, so that if I was in the wrong I could correct it. Things got quite and no one spoke until I blurted out, “The real problem is I have to go into work everyday to face a group of people who have said they have no problem hurting me. And, I have no choice but to either accept it or reciprocate their emotion.”
In an unexpected twist the co-worker started to smile. He looked at me and said, “But, what if there was a third option?” Annoyed, with his whimsical thinking I rolled my eyes and dropped my head. He said, “Now, hear me out. What if you loved them–whoever they are– in spite of the hate they show?” Intrigued by the concept I cut the melodramatics and opened my heart to the possibility of loving something I knew might hurt me. He continued his theory by explaining that I wouldn’t be the first (or the last)person to have to work with people whose intentions appear impure. He reminded me of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the fact that he died loving in spite of hate and then finished his lesson by saying to me, “you aren’t sacrificing who you are by loving in spite of hate–you are being who you are by loving in spite of hate.”
I won’t lie; this doesn’t solve all of the harm done on our team. But, this does change things. Because now, when someone metaphorically forgets their lunch at home, loses their Lisa Frank binder, or breaks their pencil I’m going to share mine regardless of whether or not they would do the same for me.
And I’ll do it, because it’s what you’re supposed to do.