The impact of a small gesture

Thursday is Thanksgiving. There are times that I have loved and times I hated this holiday. As a child of divorce, this was the one holiday that was hardest as one parent was always alone. This year I don’t have that challenge since it is the first year without my mother.

As someone who tries to focus on gratitude, I had to look a little harder through the sadness. It brought me back to another Thursday just weeks before my mother passed. I was in the process of moving her into assisted living and we just found out that the cancer was, and I quote the doctor, “blossoming throughout her entire body.”

It was a bad day. It was a sad day. It was the only day Marshall Goldsmith was in town and I had been invited to dinner with him and a group of the 100 coaches community. I hesitantly decided to go.

One of Marshall’s major gifts is curating a single conversation among all at the table. He would pose a question and go around and have everyone answer it.

Toward the end of the evening, he asked us what we learned from our own contribution to the conversation. I was the last one to go. I listened as the others shared that they questioned their contribution and I found myself doing the same thing.

I was holding back. I knew I had more to share about what was going on in my personal life. I initially struggled, but then shared the news that was weighing on me – and I broke down.

I was completely vulnerable and emotional with a table full of professional acquaintances that I barely knew. I know you are all cringing at the thought – I get it. In that moment, one of the dinner guests beside me actually placed her hand on my arm, grounding me, letting me know I wasn’t alone and it was okay. The impact of that small gesture was everything in that moment.

I am grateful for the small gestures. The ones I have given and the many I have received.

To my surprise, as I broke down, Marshall did as well. It was strangely validating or at least comforting. After all, I wasn’t the only one! Marshall explained that he was inspired by all of the strength we had. He said, “Being vulnerable in front of strangers is what I always preach.” Clearly, I took it to another level, but doing so manifested a moment I will never forget.

Marshall, moved by the power of the moment and the community he created, said to us all, “I hope one day, you’re me.” I don’t know if I’ll ever be Marshall Goldsmith in any form, but I do know that we share values and goals. He created a community to connect people for their benefit, not for his own.

I have a seed of an idea to create a community like Marshall has. To share my experience, to curate connections and conversations, to see relationships develop. To do this in a more organized way than I am already doing it. I am not ready yet. I don’t know what it looks like, yet. But I feel the spark.

As much as I felt uncomfortable sharing and breaking down, I’m thankful it unfolded that way. It’s a reminder to all of us that even those appearing strong may be struggling. Life is built on relationships, small moments, acts of kindness, and gestures that have more impact than we realize. We are all just human.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with connecting to all the humans in your life, and may you have the opportunity to share vulnerably and connect deeply this week.

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