Anyone who truly knows me, would probably say I'm the original Goody Two Shoes. Miss Do The Right Thing. I'm like the southern version of, "First, do no harm." Whether it's genetics or good home training, like a homing pigeon, I keep coming back to the Golden Rule. In my mind, if you're kind to others, you're most likely to receive the same. I said "likely". I'm optimistic, not naive. There's always the exception to the rule. Yet I am most comfortable behind the spotlight, putting someone else first. I find an inner joy in doing something nice for others. Even strangers. The cashier at out small town grocery knows that if someone behind me only has one item, I will look over my shoulder and say, "Is that all you've got? Come on. Get ahead of me."
And that's sort of how I've lived my life, no matter where I am. You need a hand? I've got two. You need someone to listen? I can do that...and not repeat what you just told me. You want me to do an extra project for work that you will likely take credit for but it benefits my senior citizens? I can do that. Granted, probably not as cheerfully on the inside, but the seniors will never know.
Yesterday, I surprised myself by taking a stand which put me first.
Okay, before you mutter, "Good for you!", the reason was my need to do a good deed. And the odds were stacked against me on this one. Our charity's annual Fundraiser is the same day as a mandatory work event. The evening part of the charity event wasn't a problem, it was the one prior to it for our wounded soldiers. They come from several states, these men and women of the military who've been harmed doing their job to protect me and mine. I communicate with all of them through e-mail so meeting them face to face is more than a treat, it makes my year. So, even when explaining to my Supervisor that I understood my job requirements and I had not picked the date in question I still received that disapproving look Mother's save for their worst child. I calmly explained the date had been chosen by a nationally known outdoor group, with a television show which would give our charity national exposure, thus the ability to aid more soldiers. I was met with an expression of, "So?"
If I've learned one thing in my job, it's to pick your battles. I waited a week and e-mailed the Supervisor with my best logical argument. I was not the only employee capable of collecting money at the gate. I offered that since we were being assisted by a local bank, surely one of them could do the collections. And yes, I did usually take photos, but the newspaper had a photographer on hand as well. The reply was a simplistic, "We all have our little hobbies we enjoy, but this is your job. Do it or get written up."
And the Saturday work event I would be missing? The annual Kite Flying contest.
No brainer right? Soldiers who have been wounded and permanently scarred should win without a second thought. Unless you're Miss Don't Rock the Boat. Miss Reliable. Miss Always Does Her Job and Then Some.
When I advised the charity's Board that I'd be unavailable, two things happened. First they looked at me as if waiting for the joke's punchline before becoming really outraged, assigning a Board Member to contact my Boss' boss. The second thing happened inside of me. I squirmed. I felt uncomfortable, bordering on miserable. In my mind I saw a soldier we'd aided, who'd been literally hiding in his room until his buddies forced him to us and we put a bow in his hand. He'd learned to smile again, shocking his buddies at last year's event when he came charging up and grabbed me in a bear hug of greeting that was genuinely warm. The same soldier who had once looked at me and said, "The Army doesn't want you when you're broken."
My misery doubled. Do my job or do the right thing? The Board told me not to worry about it, they'd take care of it because I was the "heart" of our charity and I would be there.
But "Worry" could be my middle name...although I suspect that has something to do with possessing an X chromosome. I spoke to a trusted co-worker in a position of authority who said with a shrug, "Let 'em write you up. You're a good employee. It's no big deal." Yeah, unless you're me. I replied with a rather warm, "Are you kidding me?!" and he laughed. That's right. He. Free of that X in his DNA.
I waited another week. Until yesterday. For yesterday was the last day I would be a certain age. For me, birthdays are a time to reassess and plan for a better me for the next year. So I sat me down in a quiet moment and asked softly,"What do you really want to do?"
And the instantaneous answer was, "Do what's right...for the soldiers. Because what they've been through, and continue to go through, just so I have the freedom to make a choice means I need to make one. For both of us."
Which is how I found myself yesterday seeking advice from the Dept. Head. With a simple preface of my predicament, I heard myself say, "If I have to choose between kites and soldiers who have been blown up and are still fighting demons at home, then I chose the soldiers. I need your advice on how to share that with my Supervisor." And to my amazement, she told me to merely explain to my Supervisor that I understood my choice meant I had to be written up and I understood that. As I thanked her, a huge weight lifting off my shoulders, she gave me a quick smile and added, "You're a good employee. It won't be held against you...and it'll never leave this office, so no one else will know."
But I knew. Yesterday I choose the soldiers and myself. Feels good when you find your backbone and use it for good.
Today I go into my new year having given myself the gift to not second guess my choice. Because I made the right one. For all of us.
"Happy Birthday to Me!"