I’m african-american-ish.

I had the luxury to work at the satellite office of a well-known Fortune 500 company prior to being promoted to its much larger arm. Working at a smaller corporate location allowed me to explore my natural instinct to put my hands on and learn everything about everything, especially things outside the scope of my job.

The manager of the office was old school.  He grew up in the days when females took on a more secretarial role, and, besides my supervisor, all other employees were male.  My supervisor had worked for the company for 20 years and everything she did, was the way she did what she did, and the girl before me, who had worked there for 10 years, did things the way she was taught.

So, imagine the strain brought about when my wet behind the ears self came in and started asking questions about why things were being done a certain way and then making suggestions about how they might be made better.  For my supervisor, I was a nightmare but for the manager and other supervisors, I was a breath of fresh air.

Even so, the manager treated me like his secretary, complete with sitting across from him and taking his notes, transcribing his thoughts, assisting with phone messages, etc.   None of this was in my job description.  He would often call my name from his office down the hallway, versus ringing me by phone or getting up to talk to me.  One day, he must have called me about six times in a two hour period and that sixth time, without thinking, I shouted,

“Yessa Massa, I’s a comin’ Massa.  Please don’ sell me Massa! I’s a comin’!”

Mind you, I was pissed when I shouted it and immediately regretted how quickly the sentence formed in my brain to exit my mouth without review.

However, the laughter that ensued in the whole office, bringing supervisors out into the hallway and crying in tears, made it worth it.  I will always remember how he sheepishly looked at me and how it made an impact.  He never called out to me again after that day.

This same man, now passed, was an encourager to me.  Even though I had little to no experience, and even though my ideas went against what had been done, he gave me free reign to dig my hands into things to make long lasting changes.

When I left this office in promotion to the larger one, they held a going away party for me. Everyone stood in a circle to share one thing they would miss about me.

He was last, and when it was his turn he gave me a briefcase. He told me he appreciated my contributions and the love I put into my work.  He said that he saw me running my own company someday and he wished me the best.  Coming from this seven foot, old-school gentle giant, it meant a whole lot.

What am I grateful for?

  • Understanding in a more holistic way, that it is true that we teach others how to treat us.
  • The value of an encouraging word and its ability to be converted to seed.  I had not before this considered business ownership and it would be ten years before I got the courage to let that seed grow.
  • The value of developing a patient heart. I look back and realize that at the time the seed had been planted, I would not have been able to handle the fruit it would bear.  I needed to be fortified first, so, I find value also in the paths traveled and those before me, however crooked and painful they may seem.
  • The importance of acknowledging what you love in a person, along with a slight sense of urgency in telling them since you may not have the opportunity later, and, it may positively impact the trajectory of their life.
  • The importance of witness and testimony, for there is power in both telling your story and hearing others. You are not alone, and all things are possible.