Some twenty years after his death, as I do work in intercultural and leadership coaching, I understand his life through a different lens. I see now that my father yearned to belong at work. He wanted to be more than just a systems specialist. He wanted more than to just clock in and bring home the check. For all the hours he spent at work, he wanted to be part of the community – sharing, talking, engaging – more than the perfunctory, “how was your weekend” pass-by glance. I look back and realize that my father’s work existence must have been quite lonely.
I was in seventh grade, at dinner at my friend’s house. At the table were her parents, my friend and me. It was a low key affair. We were having hamburgers. Across the table were tomatoes that I desperately wanted. My mind urged me to “just ask!”. But my body just wouldn’t respond. I couldn’t open my mouth. With hunger beckoning me on, the twelve year old ate my hamburger without the tomatoes…The only way to adapt to a new set of social etiquette is to do it. Just do it. There is no other way.