A significant portion of our lives is spent at work. Our workplace has a profound effect on our lives. Either they become cherished memories which we often recount to friends and colleagues or they become haunting nightmares.
There are two such instances from my life which I would like to share. The first instance is of an organization where I actually felt happy. I looked forward to waking up and rushing to work, meeting my team and tracking our performance. The environment was comforting and a smiling face wasn’t too difficult to locate, despite the difficult situation our employer found itself in. I got the chance to spend only one Christmas in this organization. There was a tradition of organizing a Secret Santa for all the teams. All of us randomly received names of people for whom we had to get a gift. I received the name of a senior team member, and I had just the perfect gift for him. A few days ago, I had bought a really nice hard bound journal for myself, which I thought would be ideal in this situation. On the first page I wrote down my favourite prayer – St. Francis’ Prayer “Lord, make me a channel of thy peace…”. This prayer has always made me think and feel deeply. So, I thought it would be an apt introduction to anybody’s journal. I wrapped it up in plain brown paper and mentioned the recipient’s name.
On the day of the Secret Santa all of the gifts were pooled together, and one by one, people were called out and given their gifts. But, my name wasn’t. Nobody had been given or received my name. I did not get a gift. I did feel a little disappointed but I outwardly told my team that it didn’t matter and I didn’t feel bad. They felt bad for me.
Everybody was opening their gifts and looking at others opening theirs. Some were happy, others, not so happy. Some were making fun of their gifts others were scrutinizing the anonymous benefactor’s true intent. The senior colleague used to sit just two cubicles across. I saw him opening his gift, while flipping through pages of the journal, he landed on the first page and saw the prayer. I saw his face light up. He appeared to be extremely happy. I was glad. He wanted to know who had given him the present. And, my team members appeared eager to tell him that I had given him the present and that I had not received anything.
As you can imagine, the inevitable happened. If I remember correctly, that very same day the senior colleague walked up to me and thanked me. He promised that he would get me something. I, while trying to be polite, requested him not to take any trouble. And lo and behold, a few days later he presented me with a book, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. I felt very good that day, and I still do every time I think about this story and about the workplace where all of this was made possible.
– Syed Omar Alam