We made soem new friends today1. Well, I suppose time will tell if that’s the case. I hope so. I liked these new folks that floated into our lives. It’s not super important how they floated in, but they did. We found ourselves in an unstructured, roaming conversation that proved both meanigfiul and energizing. Toward the beginning of the call, an organizing idea emerged through an experience and observation.
One of our new friends had their son in the room with him. It was clear early on that his son wanted to have his attention, making several attempts to gain it. At one point, he turned toward his son and his face lit up with what can only be described as joy and love. Shannon said, “I’m loving how you look at your son. Wouldn’t it be nice if team members could look at each other that way?”
We ended up returning to this moment a number of times as the conversation moved on. What if? What if we were as unguarded with one another as he is with his son? What if we were able to care for each other that much? I found myself sharing the idea that perhaps folks who don’t look at their colleagues with as much care as he did with his son also don’t look at their children in that way.
Of course, it’s different, right? And it’s a huge assumption that those who don’t fall in love with colleagues can’t fall in love with their children. It’s not just an assumption, but it’s not even correct. But this isn’t about being correct, or right even. It’s about poitning out something that I think is fundamental: we are emotional, feeling creatures no matter where we are. We don’t have to look at our co-workers the way we look at the children in our lives. But can we recognize the ways we can connect with each other that are beyond the “professional?”
This time we live in is asking us to this in some ways. We must show each other some grace as we navigate the emotional landscape we find ourselves in. Some of us don’t have anywhere to do a video conference call that looks “professional.” Many don’t have the opportunity to work from home, and may be working with added stress, so they need some more space to do their work. In all of this, we have opportunities to let the whole person in.
I often say that no workplace has a locker at the entrance for each employee to leave their heart, emotions, traumas, overall messy human-ness. Yet, we act as if they all do. We come to work with who we are, and any compartmentalization we make is on the surface at best. Often, it is clear as day that we are compartmentalizing. People can sense it in us. They can see it.
So what if we let go of the idea of pretending that we had to be some other way, and let ourselves care for one another in ways that let more and more of us come to life? With all of the suffering around us right now — including our own, no matter what it looks like — wouldn’t it be nice if we started to wonder if maybe, perhaps it’s possible to experience the kind of joy and live found d on a father’s face at work?