One of the joys of the workplace, is the fact that every single day, we see people we would not see otherwise. This, for me, is a great privilege.
Most of us choose our friends around compatibility and similar interests, and that is entirely normal. We can easily end up with a group of friends, though, who are similar in social status, earnings, careers, sporting interests, family size. We live near each other and frequent the same churches, shopping centres, and holiday spots. After all, who has the time nowadays to develop diverse spheres of influence?
Somehow, though I have always had variety because of my different interests… I had my music friends (the late night weirdos with perfect pitch and long hair) , my sport friends (the fit and frenzied health nuts with short hair and diet supplements) , and my church friends (the sensitive, community involved and spiritually passionate with caffeine overdoses and deep thoughts), all totally different to each other!
In the workplace, we are “forced” into daily interactions with people who would not ordinarily be in our circle of friends, and it is in those relationships that we can find the most exceptional reward. The privilege of many workplace friendships, thinking back over the different workplaces I have been in and people I have met, is that underneath the normal exteriors of so many of our colleagues, beats the fiercely brave hearts of heroes and warriors.
Our challenge is to learn their stories, and to never assume that what we see on the surface is the full story. As we do this, we will discover that the person next door is a hero by any definition of the word.
I remember the personal assistant, violently beaten at home, slowly building up the courage though her success at work, that she could leave her partner and build her own life. I remember the day she made that decision and saw it through – the fear, the excitement and the joy, all rolled up into this tiny package!
I remember the illiterate worker in South Africa, destroying R50 000,00 of stock because he could not control his excitement at learning to write his own name for the first time, and wrote it all over our products. (He got an award for that). Later on he told me he was soon able to help his children with their homework. To see his chest swell with pride was a thing of beauty and joy.
I remember the lady whose partner left her, and who protected her children from the trauma she went through by always speaking of her “ex” in the most positive terms. Although he was not anything of the sort, she made sure he remained a hero to her children. I am convinced they grew up straight and strong because she honoured their father and never orphaned their spirits with revenge or bitterness against him. (She’s my personal favourite hero, that one)
There are many others, each with their own saga. We would never had connected, had it not been for the workplace. Hopefully, we enriched each other’s lives, but I can say for sure they have enriched mine. I have discovered new heroes in my workplace, and it is my privilege and blessing to watch their stories unfold.
Heroes don’t need to be able to achieve the impossible, clothed in lycra and defeating insurmountable odds… I think there is a hero in everyone. Doing every day what needs to be done, seems to be what it takes. Doing it for the helpless and the innocent, takes it from being the daily grind, to being the work of a hero.