Be Gracious This December

2020 has not been kind to most of us; and for some, in multiple ways. The good news is we’ve only a month to go. The bad news, those few remaining days are coming during what is for many, already an emotional and stressful month.

Traditionally, retailers with products to sell off before year end extend their hours and in so doing, make more demands upon their staff. December is that, ‘make it or break it’ month, as bean counters rely heavily on Black Friday and the, ‘Only __ days until Christmas!’ events to balance the books. For we consumers, the pressure is on to find the right gifts, at affordable prices, wrap and label, hide or post them, and if ordering online, allow sufficient time to have them delivered ahead of the big day.

2020 though adds layers of uncertainty. Fear of illness, restrictions on movement, reservations about increased online scams, anguish over whether family should even get together or not, uncertainty of whether to buy a big turkey or modest bird, it just goes on. Why even the decision to decorate or not and to what extent is weighing on people’s minds. The chaos and upheaval of packing up year round accessories and unpacking boxes of Christmas decorations is normally a happy time we wouldn’t have any other way, but for some it will be bittersweet as individuals wonder if anyone will even be allowed in their house to share in the transformation and see the tree.

Practically speaking, a lot of us are out of work; or if we landed new jobs, we had a loss of employment and the income that went with it at some point this past year. So gift buying might be quite different this year, and if gift buying is different, so too will be gift receiving. Be aware now, and remember this, so your expectations don’t disappoint you, straining your good mental health which 2020 has attacked with regularity.

And so it is, my good reader, that we must give others – and ourselves – the gift of gracious understanding. We’re all under a lot of pressure; some of us know it and some of us don’t. Having an increased capacity for empathy may just be what gets us through the remaining month and into 2021. Like the Who’s down in Whoville, we might wake up Christmas morning and find Christmas comes just the same whether or not it comes with ribbons on boxes, with bows and with tags. May we wake up with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts just the same.

For a lot of folks, December is a stressful month as it brings back reminders of loved ones who have left, relationships ended, feelings of isolation and being left behind which this year will be that much more intensely felt. Many long term care facilities won’t be permitting visitors, and the deterioration of mental and physical health may surprise us when we do eventually get back to seeing parents and grandparents in care there.

But it’s not all bleak despair.

I’m advocating for increased appreciation and gratitude for the many people who, despite all the above, are not only going about their work days as usual, they’re stepping up their level of service and investing much more personal energy in doing so. All kinds of people are keeping us safe while putting themselves at risk; receiving no increase in compensation for doing so. The minimum wage earner who wipes your grocery cart handles you don’t see and the Cashier who has to wipe down the conveyer belt when you mistakenly put your reusable bags on it among them.

There are people, (and I’m one) wearing masks for the entirety of 7 hour shifts, still trying to convince people to don their own masks for much shorter periods of time. Inconvenient and uncomfortable for sure, but done not only to protect ourselves, but to safeguard the very people who complain about having to wear their own and wear it properly. Pulling it beneath your nose because your glasses fog up or pulling it down to speak puts us all at risk; you’re doing it wrong. Sigh…

And yet, these are the very kinds of situations in which we have to have more empathy for the folks involved. That doesn’t mean we’re complacent or lax in reminding others to mask up, but we can do it with empathy because we too know it’s not comfortable. Patience, understanding, kindness etc.; may they all be in great abundance.

If you’re feeling a trifle sadder this year with any of the above, consider that you’re moving a tad closer to better appreciating what it may be like for people with anxiety and depression. Some if not all of these people go from day to day throughout the year – and have done so for years – living with multiples of what you may be only now coming close to. Anxiety and depression being invisible to the eye, extending understanding and graciousness to others could do a world of good and you’ll never know what a kindness you may have paid forward.

In your online posts, be gentle. Hit, ‘like’ a little more often rather than sending an anonymous volley at someone you don’t know in the least. Be good to each other and in so doing, be good to yourself.


Who Have You Got On Your Team?

One of the biggest benefits to having a job is also one of the most seldom talked about; being surrounded by and connecting with other people. Even when you work independently most of the time, you’re still connected to an organization and all the people you call co-workers. If and when you want or need advice, suggestions or just plain conversation, people are there.

Looking for a job on the other hand can be extremely isolating. While a workplace provides a central gathering place for co-workers to convene, when you’re out of work altogether, there is no hub to bring people together. Only once you’ve had a job in the past and are on your own looking do you realize how important those relationships with past co-workers were.

On top of all this, the Covid-19 world-wide pandemic comes along. If you think you’ve got it bad having to connect to fellow employees and customers via video calls, amplify your feelings of isolation and have some empathy for the job seeker doing their best to maintain their mental health alone.

My opinion might differ from others, but I feel it of vital importance to assemble a team of people when you’re looking for work rather than going it entirely solo. And who should make up that team? Good question! Let’s have a look.


More important than any other team member, Cheerleaders are the people who are pulling for you, the one’s who touch base and not only ask how it’s going, they continually remind you of your skills, talents and abilities. These are the people who recall to your mind the good works you’ve done, the positive impact you’ve had on others and sometimes how you’ve helped them personally be better themselves at what they do. In short, they make you feel good about yourself in the past, the present and how your not done yet. You’re going to be successful in your job hunt. Mom, Sherry, Bella, Terri, Finuzza, Dave and Rochelle are just some of my personal cheerleaders; nobody bigger than mom.


You’ll recognize these folks better as references. In the past, they only came into play when you’d interviewed and put forward their names as people wiling to testify to your good works. These days, their powerfully kind words are found on your LinkedIn profile for all to read anytime. These are the people who back up your claims of being influential, hard-working, impactful, tireless, resourceful; whatever it is that they want to celebrate and share about you. Along with 36 others, I’m grateful for Trevor, (alias Wonder Boy who always had my back), Dawn, Adam and Jeff.


These are the people who significantly share and feel the impact of your job search journey. Yes, your life partner, your children, your parents in some cases, siblings and immediate nuclear family; the ones you live with. Your financial status affects them, your mood be it stable or swinging from good to bad to great to mellow to good etc. These are the ones who keep their own fears for you suppressed so they don’t add to your stress while they bear their own. They’ll celebrate your good fortune more intensely precisely because they’ve been and will continue to be, a team member more than any of the others. Janine and Shannon get clear recognition here; thanks for never doubting.


Not all of us tap into these people, but we should source them out and seek their counsel. These are those we tap into for advice when we’re stuck at the worst and unsure at the best. When we wonder how best to proceed, what course of action will get us the results we’re after, or wish to check on what’s the latest thing in our line of work. They might be Employment Counsellors, Job Coaches, Employment Advisors, Mentors, Guides, Trainers, Mental Health Counsellors and Guru’s. I know the critical importance of these precisely because I myself have never had one; which is my strongest motivator to be a good one.


These are the people – and I hope we all have them – who have tangibly benefited from our influence in their lives. They can best attest to our good works. They remind us of the best in us. They are better for having met us. They have products we’ve made or services we’ve provided that helped them along a little or enriched their lives in a bigger way. When it gets dark in our lives, we are reminded of these people – and sometimes by them – of how we’ve had an influence for good and we’re humbled. We know instinctively that when all the world seems to say we can’t, these people remind us that in fact, we have! Among many others, Rosiland, Rupert, Alan, Lorraine and Lisamaria.

Suddenly it’s not such a lonely road when you’re job searching. These people aren’t in our homes and physically beside us as we look for our next role. They’ve shaped us however just as we’ve shaped them; we do well to remind ourselves of their influence, their continued presence and we’re better for knowing them.

May your own job search journey be filled with cheerleaders, backers, beneficiaries, advisors and stakeholders.

We are all successful. Who are the people who make up your team?


Safe At Home? Be Grateful

I did a fair bit of driving this weekend. Saturday it was the trip from Lindsay to Toronto and home again, then Sunday the drive from Lindsay to Mississauga and back again. As I made the final turn onto our Crescent both evenings, the Christmas lights on the front lawn and house itself brought me a measure of both happiness and relief; we were home.

Home is sanctuary; the place with which within I am calm, protected and at peace. It’s where I recharge, relax, settle back with a blanket and at this time of year, enjoy the festive decorations, the Christmas tree, and perhaps a cup of tea. Yes, every time I make that last turn in the road and ascend the hill to our home, the promise of such sanctuary awaits me.

I imagine many of you might have similar feelings as you travel home from both near and far, whether it’s a house, condominium or apartment you return to. Once inside, it’s your space; your private sanctuary from everything beyond your door.

Of course it’s not the case for everyone. I can’t truly imagine what it must be like to live without that promise of a safe and secure place to take my rest at the end of a day. When temperatures outside are below zero degrees Celsius, not only does being homeless rob a person of much of their physical energy, it has to be incredibly taxing on the mind to constantly have to focus on finding a place to spend the night. Can you picture having to spend much of your day scrounging for shelter and then when you wake up the following day from a restless sleep, you have to move on and repeat the same process; wondering again where your head will rest that night?

Now were it you or I, we likely believe we wouldn’t be in such a predicament long. We’d likely use our resources acquired over time, including our interpersonal skills to locate and secure some place of safety and warmth. We’d turn quickly to finding work, then use our earned money to rent a place and begin to improve our lot.

The difference I suppose though is were we truly homeless, the mind that we rely and trust to make good decisions each day would be adversely affected. The mental strain upon us is not something I believe we would be prepared for. The lack of a place to shower and clean ourselves would be an eye opener, then even if we had such a basic resource, how upset would we be putting on the same garments, unwashed themselves and thus carry with us the grime, the odour? Without money, how would we feed ourselves? How might the quality of the food we do consume when we find it differ from what we eat now?

You and I, we not be rich, but we are rich by comparison. We can not only close our doors to the world each night, we sleep in comfortable beds, we eat without having to guard our plates; when thirsty we find options in our fridges. We don clean clothes each day, we snuggle in against the bitter cold, raise a thermostat if we so choose. Lucky? Well, yes I suppose we are.

Now yes, we do make our own luck I’ll affirm, but what we make our luck with is an educated mind. We have had resources our entire lives some never will have. If you grew up with a mother and father, lived in a house, had three meals a day and went to school, you likely took much of that for granted. As a child,  perhaps this is how you believed we all started out. Not so. If you’ve never had to visit a foodbank other than to drop off a donation, or never had to leave some items at the checkout because you haven’t got enough money to pay for them, you’re lucky indeed.

The nights are dark and cold, the daylight shorter at this time of year in my part of the world where winter is upon us. The streets are often slushy, which makes it trickier to walk for some in heels and harder still to push those shopping carts and buggies with worldly possessions in them for others.

If you think the simple solution is to get a job and be self-supporting, think of what herculean effort that must take. A homeless person has to concentrate on where to sleep, where to eat. They have few items to improve their personal hygiene and fewer to clean and maintain the cleanliness of their clothes. They are often shunned for their appearance, their smell, their cleanliness and much of the time lack personal identification such as birth certificates, health cards and social insurance numbers.

Luxuries are things like haircuts, dental visits, prescription glasses, non-processed foods, undamaged fruits and vegetables. Families are typically dysfunctional, relationships hard to establish and harder still to maintain. Without an address, services are hard to get, being always on the move, they have no sanctuary at the close of a day, sleeping with one eye open out of fear until absolutely exhausted.

Enjoy your home as do I, but be benevolent when you can. Consider a donation, be it a used article of warmth, food, toiletries, or your time. Be grateful, be humble.

Thankfulness And Gratitude

I make a conscious effort to express my thankfulness to people in my workplace on a regular basis. Sure it takes some thought, it takes some empathy and it requires some action on my part. “Hey so-and-so, thanks for what you did just now. I really appreciate it.” There. Done. It takes some thought, empathy and action but not much. But the effect? Impactful.

Now, sure being thankful is on my mind with Thanksgiving upon us this weekend. May I suggest and hopefully encourage you to spread a little thanks around yourself at work today and tomorrow, if not the entire year.

Thank you Roxann, my Team Clerk who works diligently each day, providing myself and the team with administrative support. Roxann makes it possible for us to focus on what we do by taking care of things behind the scene. She’s often pulled in many directions, some days stretched pretty thin, but always finds a way to come through.

Thank you Trevor, who for over 11 years shared an office with me until this week when he switched his role in the organization. Together we shared so much, professionally and personally and the impact you had on me each day is hard to measure but I’m glad I was wise enough to appreciate you and tell you every so often rather than waiting until now.

Thank you Terri, another team member of mine, who has both her heart and her head in the right place. Like me, you’ve come to the employment counselling role later in life with a rich background of jobs and past careers. I am so grateful for having you in my life and having the privilege to work alongside you.

Thank you Sherry who puts up with my, ‘dad’ jokes, supports me with a compassionate ear and every so often just accepts a hug when given to her. Having worked together briefly as Caseworkers and then Employment Counsellors, we’ve shared a lot of frustration and success but always been there in the important ways for each other. Again, big heart.

Thank you Kathleen, the single best Supervisor with whom I ever had the pleasure of working with. Under your leadership and supportive guidance, I learned to be flexible, became a better employee and by consequence, a better human being. You know how much I value you because I made sure you heard it often enough. Thanks for never shutting down my innovative creativity; even though we know there were times you were saturated with yet another new idea of mine.

Thanks Nataliya, for the consistent, high quality customer service you provide me with when I’ve got a technical need. But more than that, thanks for opening up, sharing and trusting in me. We need more people like you who are both good at what they do and always have serving others the best they can in mind.

Thank you Kelly, my former Manager and now Director, for two distinct gifts you taught me. First, I have always been struck by your routine of turning away from your computer and turning 100% of your body to me when we talk. I’ve copied that and I know it’s value. Second, you always lobby and advocate for those who need a voice most; those we serve, and that’s so important for all of us on the front line to know; you believe in us.

Thanks Rochelle, who has remembered me each and every year on my birthday with an email. Thanks for your past, present and ongoing support, kindness and your way with words. Following your passion is Rochelle all over, and your love of writing is something I can truly appreciate.

Thanks Dave, who is one of the truly great ones. Dave who works with a Servant Leadership style akin to my own. Dave, for whom I look up to with great respect, not only for working every day with service excellence as his legacy, but who does so with grace, humility and compassion. You my friend, are so appreciated and held in the highest regard. And Dave, you’ll get where you want to be; I believe that.

Thank you Leena, Mairna, George, Carl, Bill, Alexandra, and all the other people who welcomed me to walk alongside you for a brief time on your own life’s journeys. It takes a wise person to reach out for help and an even wiser person to accept help when it’s offered to them. You each touch me in profound ways, change me hopefully for the better and for that I am extremely grateful.

Thank you Gayle, Dale, Steven, James, Sherrie, Mike and so many others I can’t list you all; you out there in my readership. When you comment on or like some piece of mine, I feel encouraged to continue. Although we’ve never met in person, I see your faces on your profiles, read your words with appreciation and feel were we to meet one day, we’d shake hands, sit down and talk like we’re old friends. Your communities are fortunate indeed to have you.

So, if I may, make a point of thanking some of those you come into contact with today, tomorrow and each day. Thanksgiving is a good reason to start, even if you feel at the moment you’ve got little to be thankful for. When you look for things to be thankful for, you’ll attract more reasons to be grateful.

Everyone Is Not Scamming

I recall when I started working in the field of Social Services being welcomed onboard and placed on a team of Caseworkers administering what was then referred to as General Welfare Assistance. In laymen’s terms, we issued funds to welfare recipients.

Now this would be back in the late 1980’s, but the words of a teammate still stick with me to this day. While I didn’t have a single person assigned to me as a Mentor or Trainer, this person took me aside on my second day and said, “Look, the first thing you have to know and remember is that everyone is scamming.” I have obviously been struck by that remark to the extent that I recall it now in 2019.

One thing I’m proud of myself looking back is that I didn’t believe it then anymore than I believe it today. However, the thing is, I could have believed it – after all this was someone working in the job I was just learning, so the assumption is that they know what they are talking about. Had I believed that person, I may have started my career in that organization with a very different mindset; one that set me up to mistrust all the people that I’d encounter; one that would have me looking for lies, disbelieving all the expressed needs that I’d hear. Had I taken that piece of advice, I might have become an embittered worker, perhaps denying all kinds of benefits to people in dire need.

My instincts back then were to actually come at things exactly the other way around. It made much more sense to me to start with the attitude that all the people I was meeting were to be believed and using the funds provided to them for the purposes issued. In the event that I became aware someone was ‘scamming’ as she referred to it, then of course our relationship would change. Many years later and in another social services organization, I did encounter a man with an undeclared bank account with $30,000.00 in it. I discovered it and he was prosecuted, found guilty and fined. There’s a process in place you see to deal with those who knowingly defraud.

Thankfully, that trial which I attended and was called to be a witness in still didn’t negatively affect my core belief in the people I had the privilege to assist as their Caseworker. And let’s make no mistake; it is a privilege. Those who are the most vulnerable in our society need good people with empathy, compassion, care and well-developed skills, experience; knowledgeable of the resources to which people can be connected. Should I find myself on the other side of the table, I sure hope to find a compassionate, understanding individual sitting across from me who believes my story and extends to me the resources I may not have the awareness of to ask for.

Now if you’ve never had any reason to avail yourself of social services, (welfare), or if your experience is limited to one or more people you know who brag about fooling the system and scamming, you might be inclined to think as this person did. Let me tell you the reality though; most people in receipt of social assistance are legitimately poor and deal with multiple barriers to financial independence. Many have underdeveloped decision-making skills primarily because they’ve had poor role models. Some have grown up in families on social assistance themselves, what we refer to a generational poverty.

Breaking away from poverty is incredibly difficult when you start off in a family that doesn’t highly value education; that may see any attempt to better yourself as a slap in the face to the rest of them. The high cost of food, housing, transportation, childcare – pretty much the core basic needs we all strive for, keep people from focusing on what many of us who have these basic needs fulfilled do, our potential. Because we go home at night to places that are safe, private, comfortable; because we put good food on the table, because we sleep in clean beds, shower at will and put on clean clothes each day, we can focus on other needs. Remove these things and suddenly our own priorities would change – and in a heartbeat.

No, I won’t ever believe or advise some new employee to look at everyone who comes to them for help as a scammer. Do some people do whatever they can, or say what they believe needs to be said in order to get some additional funds to buy better food or pay the rent they couldn’t afford otherwise? I’m know that happens.

It’s vitally important that as a society, we keep those out of power those who enact legislation and bring about changes to punitively punish the poor. On the front line, we have to trust those above us and those above them, hoping they always work and act with the best interests of our end-users in mind. That’s not always easy to see.

You know what one of the most important things you can do whenever you meet with someone who shares their story? Tell them you believe them. Build some trust. Get at the deep stuff. Then use your powers of knowledge and resources to help them help themselves. Don’t become embittered, burnt out and cold.

We’re just people helping people in the end.

A Huge Thank You … To You!

So today’s blog might not, on the surface, appear to help you get a job or keep a job. However, if you take a moment to pause and think, the behaviours I’m going to applaud and recognize are of the kind that will help you in your own workplaces.

And so it is today that I want to use my blog to express my sincere gratitude to those who have in the past taken the time necessary to post a comment after reading a blog entry. I have to say, the impact of your thoughtfulness and kindness is significant and extremely appreciated.

You see I know that as I strive for 900 words in each piece, that represents a commitment of time to get through the article. I’m not sure why I initially hit on 900 words as a daily goal; it just seemed in those first early blogs that it took that long to convey the messages intended. 900 words for the reader was enough to get in to a topic without being overly time consuming. So yes, to read my blog takes time, and I am grateful for all my readers; exceptionally so. I’ve found with bytes and brevity abounding around us in these times, not everyone has the attention spans they used to. Maybe for many 900 is actually too long?

Hence it is that after having read a piece of my thoughts, you can see that those who take a few moments and leave a comment leave me a tremendous gift; a gift I recognize as such and truly appreciate. I don’t necessarily envy the celebrities who have thousands of replies and comments whenever they post something, but I have had spikes where my daily readership increases, and where the comments are more plentiful than other days. I will admit while it’s not jealously or envy, I do love those days when there’s more activity than usual. I think this is to be expected.

So this one is for you the readers. Whenever you take the time to read my blog and if you so choose to go further and rate the piece or leave a comment, you also say something about yourself as much as you do the piece. You demonstrate appreciation and with your input you participate. How disheartening it would be to write day after day and have no ratings, no comments, no indication that anyone was listening or had any appreciation for what I was sharing! This is not only true for me of course, but for others you follow or pieces of theirs you read; maybe for yourself if you’re a writer, a blogger, a novelist.

There are those such as James, Gayle and Dave who are in my audience daily. There are those like Rochelle and Rhiannon who don’t comment frequently but when they do it’s significant and from the heart. There are those who are new followers, some who were with me right from the start back in February of 2012, and of course many who are attracted through LinkedIn posts in addition to my personal blog.

I have to stress how grateful I am to all of those – to you as well (yes you reading these words here and now) who make up my readership. One of the nicest things many of you do is gift me your time in reading a piece, leaving a short comment and then there are those who pass on the blog to someone in their audience. When I learn that the thoughts for a day have been shared beyond my own sites, it’s another moment of gratitude at my end. To be deemed worthy enough of sharing with your own readers in your own circles is a very great privilege I recognize.

And so you see it’s important for me to practice my own gratitude; the behaviour which I so often suggest to others is highly desirable. When you and I express our gratitude for the kindness of others, we say a lot about ourselves. Think about your recent past and recall if you can the moments when you personally thanked someone. Now, how did they receive and respond to your thoughtful words of appreciation? It’s my hope they in turn expressed their thanks. Unfortunate indeed if they brushed it off as nothing. They likely didn’t mean it by the way if they did.

Whether a co-worker, someone in management, a customer or client, a resident or patient, a child or a student; whomever you come into contact with, everyone is potentially someone we could thank for something given. Are you grateful for the student who appreciates your guidance, the patient who’s trust you’ve earned in treating them, perhaps the co-worker who backs you up every so often. Maybe you’re grateful for the customers that keep your doors open and spread the news about your services and products.

When you think about it, there’s so many people to not only be grateful for, but who are worthy of actually being told how they’d touched you. I know that it’s a busy world and social media has added one more thing when we have so many things vying for our time and attention. It’s precisely because of these demands on our time – on your time – that it’s important that I express my thanks to let you know how truly I appreciate you my readers.




Recharged. Thanks Algonquin.

For me it was camping. The location? Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. The park is so vast, there are multiple campgrounds and hiking trails within its borders as well as logging areas, a Logging museum, an Arts museum, outfitting stores and vacation resorts. . It’s home to Bears, Loons, Moose, Beavers, Wolves, birds and its lakes and rivers home to fish, turtles, aquatic life.

I had some time up there last week and today is back to work day. For me, it’s not an escape or a get-away destination as are some places but rather the opposite. It’s a return and a get-to destination. When I’m there, my perception of time slows a little, I breathe a little deeper, I feel the soft pine forest beneath my feet, walk soundlessly in those forests, and feel grounded; connected.

One particular trail of only 1.9 km in length takes the traveller through a forest of birch, maple and pine culminating with a view over a cliff face. From there, you can look across miles of the pine forest canopy; see Lake of Two Rivers, the undulation of the landscape before you, shaped and molded from the passing of vast sheets of ice in what was the ice age. The view is blue skies above and shades of greens below. In a month, much of that green will be ablaze in red, orange, yellow and rust; the colours of Autumn.

It was just as I was departing this view when I turned to my wife behind me and saw that she was taking my picture. I reached out my right hand and placing my outstretched arm against a tree upon the crest of this cliff, I said, “This is a pose my dad would have taken.” Wow, I hadn’t done that intentionally, but I recognized in that pose the image of my father. My father who had with my mother, exposed me to Algonquin and camping all through my childhood. And so, again, instead of getting away for a week as co-workers will see it, I was in fact returning not just to a park, but to a memory of my own past.

Do you have a special place of your own that brings you peace, sanctuary, relaxation; somewhere where you connect with a part of yourself that you just can’t find anywhere else? It’s spiritual in a way, because my spirit is always affected when I’m there. It does me good, and I’m good for another year. When I don’t make it up there, something is missing and I feel it until I’m back. Four nights there and I’m changed, again, reminded of what’s important – to me at any rate.

And it doesn’t stop when the sun dips below the skyline. There’s the campfire. How many people have spent time seated before a fire, drawn into those orange flames that curl around logs, the glowing red and blue embers that radiate intense heat and the sounds of crackle and sparks. Looking up at the plume of smoke that disappears in the darkening pine canopy, the stars above in a cloudless night are captivating; and they’d have to be to steal your view from the campfire.

Gaze long enough and you’ll see the moon ascend, moving on it’s trajectory across the night sky, but in the forest it appears to hide and reveal itself continuously behind the trunks of the tall pine giants.  There are no street lights, just the campfires from others. Noise travels more at night and at this time of year, there are few occupied sites; those with children are back at their homes, their children in schools. Every so often a lone cry is heard from a Loon. It’s magic in the woods.

At this time of the night, there are no electronics on; no wireless internet, no television, radio or even reading of a book. Every so often a laugh from another group of campers is heard; one by one the fires are extinguished, campers move to their tents or travel trailers. It’s cool at night; not cold mind you – that will come in the weeks ahead. No, it’s perfect for a sound sleep with the air cool, the sleeping bags warm and waiting. It’s like a long lasting hug, cocooned inside where you body heat is all you need to spend a warm night. And dark? It’s void of light here; an exhale of content, and drifting away…

Sitting back here at home now, I’m ready for the day ahead. In ten minutes, the routine of a shower, dressing, breakfast, a packed lunch and the commute to work will bring me back to work. It’s okay and it’s good.

I hope that you who read this also have had or will have a vacation that gives you what it is you seek. Be it a strengthening of your spirit, a memory you make with your family or a solo adventure of travel and sightseeing, getting what you want and need is my hope. If you stay at home, may you be in your happy place, for it’s not always a big trip with lot’s of stories that we need.

If you’ve the interest, share your favourite vacation spot in the comments. How is it spent? Is it a road trip? Whether campsite, resort, backyard retreat or tourist attractions, it’s all good.

Mentally recharged and sincerely grateful.

Those Across The Table Struggle Too

Have you ever thought much about the people you deal with every day who sit or stand across the table or counter from you and provide a service? Far from robotic, these too are average folks who get up, go to work, do the best they can and go home. They have personal struggles, mental health issues, real-life disasters, hopes and dreams, wants and needs just like me; just like you.

Not many of us care to know quite frankly. When we go in to renew our licence plate stickers and get in that 12 person deep line, shunting our way up to the counter, we just want to pay our dues, get the sticker and leave. We may even share with those we meet for the rest of the day our complaint about the long line, the inconvenience of the process and high fees, and to finish off our rant, complain about the attitude and tone of voice of the man or woman who served us.

And this lack of thought isn’t confined to someone at the licencing centre. No, we likely don’t give much of a thought to the well-being of the Bank Teller who handles our transactions, the person who serves us in the drive-through, the shopkeeper who sells us an item in their store. If you’ve got something – some things – on your mind that worry, stress, preoccupy and keep you from focusing on what you’re doing with a 100% positive attitude, why is it hard to understand that the other people we interact with daily have similar challenges?

Now, to be clear, when we are dealing with such people, it’s inappropriate for both you and I to stop and ask with sincerity how they are doing and whether or not they’d like to open up and share their problems with us. We don’t all have the necessary training to start with and there’s that growing line behind you that you’re now holding up and in doing so, you’re compounding their stress to serve others. And surely, you don’t really expect them to honestly share much of anything with you in that public setting, nor expect them to fully trust you whom they don’t know much at all?

What you and I can do however is our very best to be everything we’d expect in return: courteous, respectful, kind, pleasant to deal with and yes, smile which makes us nicer to deal with.

You might think this is a given; it’s known, basic, interpersonal skills 101. However, I see many people approach those behind the counters and treat them poorly. Raised voices, a lack of manners, scowls at the outset, seemingly looking to provoke an altercation, foul language, animated faces and drama more suited to a theatre stage than a bank reception area. I’ve even found myself apologizing for someone else’s rude behaviour when it’s my turn. Just acknowledging the difficulty they had providing service to the previous person goes a long way.

The thing is we expect the people who serve us to be 100% focused on us. Some would say, “That’s what their paid to do so yes, just do their job.” And honestly if that’s your reaction, you’re likely one of the people who doesn’t care to think about other people as, well…. people. Why would you assume they shouldn’t be working if they’ve got problems on their minds? My goodness, many people would sit home for long periods were this the case.

The truth of the matter is that a great number of people with problems, worries, stressors and mental health challenges find the inner resolve and strength to go about their work day each and every day. They do bring their problems with them to work, then to the grocery stores where they stand in line served by others, then to the gas stations or bus stops where they are surrounded by more people and served by the Cashier or the Bus Driver. On the outside they may look like they’ve got it all together; not a care in the world. On the inside, hidden away from the public, they too may be dealing with all kinds of things we’ve no idea of.

So it’s important therefore to be kind, respectful and yes, even empathetic when we don’t get the absolute best from whomever we are dealing with. If the Waitress neglects to bring us the ketchup we asked for, it’s surely not something to make a big deal over is it? Ask a second time and be kind about it. Maybe she’s worried about getting a call from the school about her child’s behaviour, perhaps she received an eviction notice just before coming to work and she’s conflicted with being here at work serving you so she holds on to her job, but really would rather be packing up or planning to fight it.

To close, I often suggest to you readers that you take advantage of counselling services to unburden your load, share your troubles and in so doing, move forward. That person listening to you, for all their expertise is a human too. As you pour all your feelings out, you’re one of 3 or 4 to do so that day and every day. That’s a huge responsibility they take on gladly, and while they are paid well, they also pay a price you can’t measure.

Be kind, show gratitude, be understanding. Every day with everyone.

Happiness In Appreciating Small Things

If your workplace is a hectic, physically demanding or mentally exhausting place to work; if the volume of your workload has increased and you’re barely treading water, you might find that heading into work on Monday morning, you’re already living for Friday quitting time.

While weekends and days off are satisfying and something to look forward to for most, it’s not a good sign if you go into work just for the money, focused on getting out. This kind of mentality in the workplace can make it a toxic place to be if that attitude is spread among the majority. You could end up losing an appreciation for the work you do, think and talk poorly about your employer, your job, the environment and soon enough you become viewed as negative in general. If this happens, you might find fewer people want to hang out with you both at work and on their personal time; simply because most people would rather hang out with positive people.

Having said all this, you might be in agreement but wonder what you can do about it as there’s no way to change what you do for a living. The environment is intense, dusty, staff work in isolation or people bark to be heard over noisy machinery all day, etc. You might enjoy your job itself but just find nothing to look forward to except that weekend on the far horizon. Problem with this thinking is that if that’s all you look forward to in a day, even when the weekend is here, your thoughts of the upcoming return to work on Monday ruin your full enjoyment of Sundays.

One possible thing to try is to identify other things throughout the week that you look forward to and will enjoy. These can be things both at work and when you’re away from the job. I’m talking small things here; not major events. String together enough small things that you find pleasure, happiness or gratitude for in a day and your mood can shift slightly when they come to mind at work.

One small thing I personally look forward to each morning and have immense gratitude for is having a shower. It’s no simple feat from an engineering standpoint I suppose to get hot water readily available in every household in our community, but to me, it’s a simple thing I look forward to upon waking. Were my water to go cold or have to be shut off for even a day, I’d really come to appreciate what I’d lost even more and rather quick! It’s not that their long, but how I feel rejuvenated and invigorated gets me off to a great start each day.

I also look forward to the clothes I wear; that favourite pair of shoes, that shirt that usually draws a few compliments, maybe the colourful socks that I wear just often enough to be noticed and have a few laughs about.

Yesterday at work I was extremely focused at one point, working away on my computer and suddenly I thought of two things I was looking forward to once I got home. Those two activities each brought a physical smile to my face as I thought of them, and I could predict a pleasant evening ahead. What were they? Well, not everyone will share my view, but I looked forward to cutting the grass and watching my favourite football team play a game on television. Sure it’s only an exhibition game, but it was a first glimpse at the team after a long winter and early Spring.

You can view cutting the lawn as just another chore if you like, or you can view that same activity as one of the privileges of home ownership. I love the view of the backyard when the grass is freshly cut; the smell of the cut blades mixing with the lilac blossoms and everything at this time of year is lush and a mixture of intense greens. The tulips are in full blossom, the trees have their full canopy of leaves back, the hosta plants are healthy and spreading; it’s everything you strive for as an amateur gardener. It was so nice, I laid out supper on the back patio and it was just nice to sit back and take in the view.

Maybe your day gets a little brighter when you think of some facetime with a loved one far away; a grandson and daughter in my case, or perhaps a brother, mother, sister or father in yours.

Another thing I’ve come to appreciate and look forward to over many years of long commutes is the actual commute itself. Mine is an hour commute to work and another hour home. Being a mix of city and country driving, I realized a long time ago that I want to appreciate the changing scenery and the ride itself. The goal isn’t to drive fast and get to work or home as soon as possible, but rather sit back, take in the sights of rolling fields, rising suns and the odd wildlife here and there. Having a vehicle you enjoy driving might, as in my case, make the actual drive fun too.

My point is to appreciate the small, daily things that take up a lot of your time. Living consciously in the moment. having gratitude, looking forward to things might do for you what they do for me. Good for our mental health!

Fully Investing Yourself

I’ve changed my answer to the question people ask me regarding my strengths. In the past I shared my enthusiasm for innovation and creativity; pushing myself to always look for new ways of presenting material. I love morphing what exists into better versions and by better I mean bringing content into a fuller understanding and buy-in for and by those receiving the content.

I like to believe that my peers still see me as innovative and creative so it’s not that I’ve plateaued and stopped innovating, it’s just that I’ve found something I’d rather share as a personal strength. What I offer in response to this question now is an unwavering, complete commitment when it comes to investing in others. Honestly, I don’t think I personally could choose anything more rewarding to do, and I’d hope that participants of my workshops, coworkers and supervisors would back up my words if/when called upon to attest to my actions.

As an Employment Counsellor, my role brings me into contact with the unemployed and the underemployed every single day. As I work during the day with a population exclusively in receipt of social assistance, I also have the great privilege of coming into contact with people when they are most vulnerable; a low point if you will in their lives. Their lack of financial independence is far from being the only problem they have when their lives and mine intersect. Believe me, those in this population would love to believe that finding a job was their only problem.

By the time I meet them, many are dealing with homelessness, abusive relationships, dysfunctional families, marital and custody battles, poor landlords, interaction with several other social service agencies, loss of self-esteem, self-confidence and rising debt. Some have poor education, under-developed social skills, poor self-awareness, weak problem-solving skills, poor role models, questionable decision-making abilities, limited vocabularies, and others have legal issues to contend with. The lack of a job is just one problem, and not often is it the number one concern.

My coworkers and I understand that to be effective, we have to address more than just the lack of employment to give those we serve the best opportunity to move forward and keep the jobs they land. I suppose this is one of the key factors that defines us, (and others who work in similar roles with this population) from organizations which exclusively address unemployment as a stand alone issue.

Not all people understand this; nor do all people in decision-making levels of government. The mantra of “Just get them a job and move on to the next person”, is short-sighted and doomed to fail more than succeed. Those fortunate to get employment will often lose it quickly and return to the safety net provided by social services if they don’t have the multiple barriers to employment addressed and the required skills learned to work through these other presenting barriers.

So herein comes the need to invest in others; completely. I don’t believe you can be effective if you only invest partially in people. Well I for one can’t at any rate. To be truly effective, it takes a complete investment. I’ve also learned over time that this investment is simultaneously both energizing and draining. For it’s not just investing in one or two people here and there. Fully investing in my work environment means there are only seconds between people asking for and needing aid.

When someone comes to see you as trustworthy and helpful, you move in their estimation into a place where you’re the go-to person when problems arise; which they do with regularity with this fragile population. Some folks are very considerate of our capacity to hear their stories and help with arriving at potential solutions, while others dump all their problems out expecting us to own them and fix them because it’s what we’re paid to do. “It’s your job to solve my problems.”

I love this role. I embrace all that being an Employment Counsellor means and it continues to be a privilege and honour to hold this position. I’m not always successful in connecting and forging a deep connection; no one of us is for that matter. This is one key thing new staff in the field must come to appreciate; you’ll not succeed, not connect, fail to help and you’ll be questioned openly about your suitability in the role from time-to-time; the volume of people we see daily, weekly, monthly and yearly guarantees we won’t always be successful. Investing nonetheless and doing so fully to the extent we are able is still to be strived for.

Yesterday a woman dropped by unannounced and I was called to reception. She literally ran to me, wrapped her arms around me and jumped up and down with the excitement of sharing her news of landing a full-time job with her employer of choice. It’s taken her about 5 month’s and two jobs to get to her landing this plum job. In that embrace, I soaked up all the energy, gratitude, joy, exhilaration and emotional relief I could. That hug and her smile was her simple way of expressing her sincere appreciation for my small help along her journey.

I implore you to consider upping your own investment in the people you serve. Whether those are customers, junior staff, volunteers or the vulnerable; invest without reservation. It. Makes. All. The. Difference.