This morning, at the end of a team meeting at work, my boss said she wanted us to do “a brief activity.” I’d gotten there at 7 in the morning, and hadn’t had enough coffee, so I wanted absolutely nothing to do with whatever this was. But there we were.
She passed a cup around, and we each picked out folded slip of paper with a number on it. She then told us to find the person in the group who had our matching number. My match was a guy named Jay, who was relatively new, and who I rarely worked with. Because of this, we’d only ever had a few interactions. Jay and I stood next to each other as everyone else teamed up, and my boss to us that we were going to go around and tell our partner (in front of the entire group) one positive thing we’ve noticed while working with this person.
It was easy for me to think of something kind to say about Jay: just that morning, at the wee time of 6:55am, we’d arrived at work at the same time, and stood clutching our coffees and waiting by the door to be let in. While I could barely form sentences at that time, and honestly didn’t really want to, Jay was bright-eyed and laughing, and somehow managed to put me in a better mood as we started our work day.
As we went in a circle and every team shared, I couldn’t help but feel increasingly panicked about what Jay would say about me. All I could think was, What if he can’t think of anything? What if there is nothing positive he can say about me, since we rarely work together, and don’t even know each other? What could he possibly say?!
I went first, and spoke of his kindness, his upbeat spirit. When he spoke, he turned to look at me and said this: “The last time we worked together, you told me you have diabetes. I really admire your strength, the way you show up and work hard while dealing with that.” He paused, and continued, “I’ve been going through a lot of my own stuff—I got in a car accident this month—and have sometimes wanted to use that as a crutch, an excuse to get out of things. Seeing the way you work and live is inspiring and motivating, and gives me perspective.”
I stood there, speechless. So did everyone else, until my boss said, “Wow, well that was really a moment.” All I could say in response was thank you. I said it more than once that day.
His words brightened my entire day, week, month. Upon reflection, all I could think was: This. This is how, as human beings, we raise each other up. This is how we root for each other and help each other grow. Showing someone that you see their strength reinforces and bolsters that strength. Letting someone know that they are seen, heard, and even admired, is transformative, for everyone involved. For me that day, it challenged the voice (my own voice) that whispers so very often to me the myriad ways that I am not enough.
Yesterday, over lunch, one of my oldest friends said to me, “You are a light.” And today, Jay was such a light to me. So the story goes: we must keep carrying the light for each other.