Today I feel rich beyond measure. What began as a new
idea for my department's celebration of the holiday season
has become a very moving and enriching experience.
I was tired of the usual "draw names and buy a joke
gift for under $15" way of holiday celebration, so I
proposed that we try something different. "How about giving
each other the gift of acknowledgment?" I asked. Everyone
agreed; they were even enthusiastic. A few days before
Christmas, six of us gathered in my office. To start, I
asked that we all observe a few ground rules. The person
whose turn it was to be acknowledged could only say "thank
you." I also pointed out that it might be natural to feel
uncomfortable giving and receiving acknowledgment, but if
some people were truly uncomfortable, they could ask for
their acknowledgment in private. Silence and pauses were
deemed to be all right. They were probably just
opportunities to let the good stuff sink in.
As we began our process, it struck me that the tribes
and communities that pass their cultures along through
storytelling are very wise people. Invariably, whoever was
speaking would tell a story that illustrated the
acknowledgment he or she wanted to make.
Each of us started our communication by saying to our
colleague, "(Name), the gift you give me is ..." As each
group member spoke to the person being acknowledged, I began
to see sides of my colleagues of which I wasn't aware. One
male staffer acknowledged another male for his state of
grace that shone through. Another said, "I rest easy knowing
you are the one in your position." Other comments included
"You give me the gift of your patience," "You listen to me,"
"I knew the moment I met you that I belonged here," and so
on. It was a privilege to be there.
The spirit and connectedness we shared for those 60
minutes became bigger than we were. When we finished, no one
wanted to speak; we didn't want to break the spell. It had
been woven with heartfelt, authentic, simple truths that we
had shared with each other. We were all humbled and enriched
I believe we will always treasure the gifts we gave
each other that day. I know how priceless my own
acknowledgments were for me. It cost each of us nothing but
our willingness to see the gifts in others and to speak it