Over the years, places I’ve worked have marked the December holiday season in many different ways — some more memorable than others.
In 1991, for instance, I was employed by what is now known as Leadership Directories Inc., which has its offices at the corner of 16th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I walked about four blocks to work each morning, which was downright utopian compared to some of the bus/subway commutes others had. And, surrounding that location within a 30-minute-or-so walk were any number of great restaurants or sources of entertainment.
I don’t remember the name of the restaurant where we had our office holiday party, but I recall there being no shortage of good food and drink (and some folks engaging in behavior that probably left them a little red-faced at work the following Monday morning). I also recall it paling in comparison to a holiday party another New York City friend of mine had through his employer. He was amazed at the limitless open bar (probably because he didn’t drink alcohol), and I’m certain there was some kind of live entertainment, too.
Well, I’d imagine that many Manhattan office parties aren’t nearly as decadent as they used to be. Heck, even my employer that threw the great party in ’91 had a smaller-scale event at work a couple of years later. (How surreal it was to be having a cocktail in my cubicle.) But celebrating the holidays, of course, doesn’t have to be about decadence and extravagance to be special.
Here at the Daily Globe, we are in the middle of doing our “Secret Santa” activity in the newsroom. Each of us drew another’s name out of a hat last week, and three inexpensive gifts have to be purchased for that someone — one per week — at a cost of $1 for the first two gifts and $5 for the third. That last present will be given a week from today at a small party we’ll have that afternoon at work.
One may ask — and probably rightly so —“What kind of decent gift can you buy for a buck?” Well, at least to this participant, the gift you give doesn’t necessarily have to be practical as much as it should bring a small smile or laugh. Or, a tasty little sweet isn’t bad, either, as I was quite pleased with the Butterfinger bar I had on my desk the other morning. Basically, the whole point is simply to do something nice anonymously for someone else, and isn’t that what getting in the holiday spirit should be all about?
That spirit is also alive and well at Worthington Middle School, where my wife teaches. For the last few weeks people throughout the building have been benefiting from random acts of kindness, whether they are flowers, boxes of chocolates, gift cards or whatever. Staff at the school has then been sending emails of thanks, which I’m told has also been fun. As WMS teacher Sally Darling said in an email to me the other day, “It’s a big mystery, but it has really brought about a spirit of giving, and several have commented how it has reminded them to think of others.”
To have that kind of spirit, that kind of thoughtfulness, promoted in the workplace is wonderful. Here’s hoping it catches on elsewhere.