Monday, May 8, 2006

Something received as a gift



(This continues a series of entries explained below in ‘Something I’ve Made’.  Please bear with me – its almost over!)



****  Suicidal robin update:  fingers, toes and eyes crossed as I write this, but the covering has been off the windows for a week now and our feathered friend has not returned to rejoin the battle.  Let’s all hope he’s found a less-injurious pastime – and thank you for your best wishes on his behalf!  ****




Selecting the subject of this entry was a difficult choice to make.  Over the years – and also very recently – I’ve received gifts that have touched me and will always be remembered.  All had something in common – there was thought put into the gift, it was unique and tailored to something important to me – and it was obvious that it came from the heart and found a way to capture friendship or affection in a very special way.  Its also funny in that none of the gifts that sprung to mind for inclusion here were particularly expensive – but their value to me will always be priceless.




Several years ago, I underwent a career crisis of sorts.  I was the facility manager of a large research center for a major company – a highly visible location along an interstate highway that we had always taken pride in maintaining to peak degree.  Despite inevitable annual budget cuts, I always asked my staff for ways to remove the hidden costs and not just to take the easy way out.  They knew that I would always start from the standpoint that people were our best and brightest resource and that jobs would always be protected to the greatest extent possible – and perhaps as a result they always forwarded ideas that were cutting edge, creative and effective.  


Then one day, my boss retired – and was replaced by a man from another part of the world who had built his reputation as a ruthless cost cutter.  My fears were confirmed in one of our first meetings, when I was told my operating budget – already pared by almost 33% over the previous few years – would be cut by another arbitrary 25%, simply as a ‘statement’.  When I protested, I was immediately offered solutions that would decimate my staff and almost immediately place the building in a steady state of decline.


Several weeks before this, I had received a call from someone within the company I’d known for many years – offering me an opportunity to join his staff and build an entirely new department.  At the time I was happy in my role and turned him down, but after that meeting and a night to think it over I called him back and asked if the offer still stood.  When it did, I swallowed hard and accepted, then informed my new boss that I had saved him the amount of my salary and benefits by accepting another position at the headquarters facility.  He barely looked up – and I knew that I’d made the right decision.


Some might say that I bailed out on those who counted on me, but the reality was that the person in my job was about to begin overseeing a dismantling of everything I’d worked to build and I simply didn’t have the heart to do that – and my departure and the resulting savings ultimately saved a few of their jobs.



I had hosted a small get-together at the house for my direct staff and had held a farewell breakfast for the entire department in order to express my thanks to each and all who had made things such a pleasure for me over so many years - and thought that would be the extent of my goodbyes.  But on my final day, one of my supervisors came in and told me that there was a problem in the cafeteria and that I was needed immediately.  When I arrived upstairs, the room was filled with balloons and virtually everyone in the facility – and I’ll freely admit to a lump in my throat and a tear in the corner of my eye.


As part of the festivities, I was presented with the gift depicted above.  If you have read my entries here, you know that I am a fan of baseball.  But I also have made a hobby of collecting autographs of players – always on an official Major League ball.  So instead of a simple card, I was presented with this wonderful memento – one which still graces a place of honor on my shelf today.  The center ball is signed by my staff.  The other two contain signatures of people I knew and liked, worked with or even feuded with over the years – but all of which took the time to place their signature in blue ink on something they knew would touch me, then and now.


So many times – especially in the cold world of corporate life – people come and go from our lives with hardly a note of passing.  I always tried to treat each person with respect as an individual even when there were business differences between us – and many times felt that those efforts were either unnoticed or unappreciated as everyone scurried to the next meeting or assignment.   But when it came time to say goodbye, the defensive shields lowered and the light inside emerged – and all the work and all the effort seemed all the more worthwhile.


Sometimes we have the chance to say goodbye, and to use that occasion to reveal to someone what we feel for them in our hearts.  But many times, that occasion never arrives - and a chapter closes with all the words unsaid.  That day reinforced for me the need to take the time to let those we like – and those we love – know how we feel, for we never know when that opportunity will be gone.


inafrnz247 said...

How very true, and very well said... I have thoroughly enjoyed this photo "chapter" in your journal.  A picture paints a thousand words, and you've proved just that with these stories.  Stories that touch our hearts, minds, and senses.  I truly appreciate your words, your gift for telling, and hope that you will write always.  ;o)  Michelle

bedazzzled1 said...

You bail out on people who count on you? NEVER. I know that, and so do countless others. It is yet another one of your very special qualities.

What a great gift they gave you, Rob. I am sure many missed you after you moved on. And I just bet no one ever quite filled your shoes as nicely as you did.


kaydeejay5449 said...

That gave me chills.  How special is that?  Isn't it really about the relationships we establish in life more than the work, the money and the things?  I guess your former co-workers showed you that on your special day.  

dawngepfer said...

A bizarre twist of fate lead me to your journal and to this particular entry.  I can relate to your situation very well on a few levels - I was recently "gently guided" by frustrating change from a job I adored but lost faith in when a new supervisor came on board, who also barely batted an eye when I turned in my notice, so I, too, knew I was making the right decision as heartbreaking as it was.  My new job is as a Facility Manager of a sports facility AND we're being asked to make cuts and incur savings on an already super-tight budget.  Tough times ahead but I'm game for them.   Still miss the old job but think I made a good decision in coming here.