Resolution No. 1

January 15, 2019

Retirement ceremonies for public employees often follow a common script. First of all they are typically funded through a “collection” from co-workers, considerate of possible citizen perception of fiscal misuse. As a result the usual condiments include some de minimis financial gifts and gift cards, fruit and relish trays, punch, and a sheet cake. Some colleagues offer testimonials. The recipient will then utter a few words of appreciation, maybe fight through a little bit of emotion, and since the events tend to be at the end of the day on a Friday, we all go home.

I would characterize the events as nice, certainly nothing elegant.

Some time ago Dalton retired from municipal service after a number of years. He had spent a career working outdoors, often in harsh conditions as a journeyman something or other. His occupational badge was identified by a bronzed and wrinkled complexion and callused hands.

When the moment came for Dalton to share some remarks he detoured from the expected. Sure, he recognized and thanked his family, elected officials, fellow employees, and even a supportive public. But then he added as best I can remember,

“I’ve met a lot of people. Some are old, haggard, argumentative, a few even combative. What I try to remember in those encounters is that person was born into this world as a little child: helpless, dependent, innocent. At their root each of us is still that little baby. That helps me when I negotiate with that individual as an adult.”

Years later Dalton’s words still resonate. Like me, I’m sure that you have either worked with or encountered those you find disagreeable. Maybe it’s us who is the contentious one.

Everyone comes from a variety of circumstances. Some were born into a stable environment, others into turbulence, and many into various points in between. Regardless of delivery we were each loved by someone at that time: a mother, a father, siblings, mid-wives, nurses; cherished in our helplessness. Between that time and where we are now life happened along with its highs and lows, achievements and failures, fortunes and misfortunes. To a large degree our countenance and carriage tell the story of in between then and now.

Our times are contentious. When the potential for disagreeable moments occur and your patience is tested resolve this year to change your perspective. That indifferent clerk seems to be having a bad day. Be your best self, smile, and consider communicating to her manager that she could use some encouragement.

The Police Officer who just wrote you up for doing 50 in a 35 is doing her job. Though her assignment is to enforce the law if she is less than courteous refrain from agitation. Instead, many departments have a citizens review panel whose job is to uphold officers to professional standards that are respectful to the public they protect. Contact them.

Those of us who fly the friendly skies with any degree of frequency can spin lengthy yarn of air travel horror stories. Remember, the gate agent is not to blame for equipment mechanical problems. The reservations desk associate does not determine that there are no more outgoing flights to Atlanta today. The baggage handler who may load and unload more than a thousand bags daily, in a hurry between tight connections might see a tag as SAN instead of SAT and designate your luggage to San Diego rather than San Antonio.

A few days ago I was helping a corporate client develop a “pitch,” what might be called an “elevator speech,” in his campaign for a job search. After reviewing my first draft statement he commented, “you make me read better than I really am.” For me as a coach that was a breakthrough moment. Isn’t that something we each aspire for, to build up someone else?

Although we are already a few days into this New Year, it’s still not too late for us to set aim on a resolution. Resolve this year to be an agent of positivity, to build others up even when it’s not your first tendency, remembering we each came into the world innocently.

The Seed Sower