When you are blessed with a wonderful job, a healthy and loving family and many non-necessities (e.g., new car, nice clothes, ski trips), it can be extremely easy to get wrapped up in all the glitter and sparkle of the holidays. And let me be clear, I don’t think anything is wrong with the sparkle – I live for Christmas carols, “Miracle on 34th Street” and gingerbread cookies.
However, just a few blocks from my candy cane lane is a place called Tennyson Center for Children, a treatment center and K-12 school for emotionally and crisis-affected children and youth, particularly those suffering from abuse and neglect. GroundFloor Media’s (GFM) president and founder Laura Love-Aden has been personally involved with Tennyson for more than six years and has introduced many GFM colleagues to the center via local leadership programs, GFM’s Get Giving program or pro-bono PR work. Still being somewhat new to GFM this year I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit Tennyson Center before last week when we decorated one of the kids’ cottages, served dinner and handed out stockings.
From the moment I stepped into the cottage I had an overwhelming feeling of excitement about brightening the kids’ night, paired with a lump in my throat because I simply cannot fathom why those innocent and adorable young children have to cope with such tragic family situations – especially during the holidays.
Not many businesses are staffed by owners and employees who are as passionate about embracing a cause and making it a part of their everyday life as the people of GFM. As I watched the children smile in delight over the most basic presents – candy canes, Silly Putty and lip gloss – I became keenly aware that GFM has invited me to be a part of something special. We get to do great work for incredible clients. We celebrate our successes wholeheartedly and learn and grow from our failures. But none of those attributes of GFM compare to the way we give back together – the support we have from our leaders to step outside of our office to go experience real-world situations and try, in our own little way, to make a difference.
One young girl in particular left a major impact on me during my evening at Tennyson. She quietly said, “it’s okay, nobody likes me,” when I tried to negotiate with another child to let her hang the next string of lights. Later in the evening she walked over to me, carefully holding a snowman ornament that we had not donated. She said it was very special to her and let me help her gingerly hang it above her doorway, carefully testing the hook to make sure it wouldn’t fall. I can only wonder who gave it to her, when she got it, and what it means to her this holiday season – you cannot ask those questions of the children at Tennyson Center because you do not know what memories or feelings it will bring up for the child.
Without naming this little girl here, I want to wish her happy holidays and my deepest wishes for her to have a healthy, happy and safe 2011 and beyond.