Vulnerability & Gratitude: Let It Flow, Let It Flow, Let It Flow
Updated: Aug 1
Do you ever have those moments when you're struck by emotions at work and it takes all your might to hold yourself together? I'll admit, I've had my share of bathroom stall cries in my lifetime but this breakdown was completely different. This time, I surrendered in front of my whole team.
Last week at my team offsite, we volunteered at the San Francisco YMCA overlooking the bay directly across from Treasure Island. We wrapped Christmas presents for impoverished families living on Treasure Island. Treasure Island is mostly public housing with an average income of $29,000 a year. I was assigned the most challenging gift of all, a partly-packaged basketball. As I studied the basketball to best determine how to wrap it, the significance of this gift became very real. Who is this going to and what kind of a life does he have? I'd briefly dreamed that this ball would be the beginning of his professional basketball career. I hoped this ball would bring him the ultimate holiday gift; joy and hope. I then wondered how his mom or dad would react to their son opening his gift and that's when the emotions overtook my whole body. It reminded me of a significant miracle that happened to me sixteen years prior.
I was working at SAP at the time. It was a few weeks before the holidays. Recently divorced, I was a single mother of two, living paycheck to paycheck, making $42,000 while earning my college degree. I sat in my cubicle, right outside my boss's office when the phone rang. My ex-husband, he'd lost his job and could not offer financial support as promised. I could make money stretch for the basics, rent, gas, and groceries but Christmas presents... no way. I was not prepared for this kind of curveball. I was angry and frustrated which affected my spirit and productivity. How can I NOT have gifts for my kids? What message would a ten and twelve year old receive with no presents the first Christmas after their parent's divorce.
A week had passed as I thought about what bill I would not pay. Or maybe, I could ask my parents to borrow a little money. As I pondered, my boss called me into his office. He sat at his desk. I and two sales leaders sat across from him. He handed me a standard white company envelope and said, " We want to thank you for all your hard work. The team came together to give you a holiday gift." I opened the envelope and saw dollar bills. I could tell by the bulk of bills it was significant. He continued to say, " We'd heard what happened and collected almost $600 to help you with gifts for your kids this year." I was shocked. Tears of gratitude immediately poured. They may not remember or admit it, but I'm pretty sure we all wanted to cry at that moment. I was the only one that caved. I am forever grateful for what Dean, Steve, and Craig did for me that year.
So there I was, 16 years later, contemplating. Should I continue to resist my emotions which was becoming more and more difficult as the minutes passed? Or should I embrace them and let them flow through me for my whole team to witness. I resisted the rising emotion, gift-wrap after gift-wrap. After the last gift, I took a moment to thank the volunteer coordinator and team for the opportunity. The rising emotion arose again and that's when I let go of fear. I consciously chose to be vulnerable and honor the full experience. I shared my office miracle story with everyone, tears and all. It felt awfully scary, almost embarrassing at first because I'm not the most gracious "crying-talker" but once the expression flowed I felt tons of weight fall off my shoulders. My chest became lighter and heart open. I survived. I feel closer to my team and for that, I am grateful to.
The fact is people cry at work and it's usually stress-related, not tears of gratitude during the holidays (see link below for interesting facts on office crying). This life xSpearmint is about gratitude.
Here are a few tips for applying year-round gratitude:
Do it often.
Make it genuine.
Appreciate the whole person.
Get vulnerable. Everyone needs help at some point. When you receive help from someone, it makes you feel vulnerable. That's why thanking someone can feel uncomfortable at times.
Intently listening when others offer their gratitude to you.
A simple "Thank you" and "You're welcome" go a long way.
Additional info on crying and gratitude:
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