When my boss writes her name, she dots her “I’s” with little hearts. When she needs to file something, she does so in one of her many brightly colored folders – various shades of pink lining the grey drawers of her cubicle. When it is time to go home, she changes out of her sparkly gold flats into an equally sparkly pair of walking shoes.
When I first met her, I was slightly surprised by these choices. They seemed starkly out of place in dependency court – a space where trauma can be minimized, but never avoided. Each and every day, she encounters victims of child abuse, abandonment, and neglect. The thoughtful and energetic small-talk she shares with each of her co-workers is inevitably punctured by something tragic – a human trafficking case, a child who has run away.
I am embarrassed to admit that when I first started working with her, I cynically wondered: “Where do sparkles and hearts really fit into all of this?”
It was a naive concern.
What needs to be noted is that my boss is not only unceasingly uplifting, but also extremely purposeful. Her sparkles and hearts are not a façade, or a little nod to the fact that she works with young children. They may be aesthetic preferences, but I can’t help but see them as physical manifestations of a constant and incredible choice that she has made: the choice to diffuse positivity and kindness into each and every facet of her work, from the details to the big picture.
Yes, it may just be a pink folder. But it is also the extra thirty seconds she takes to thank each individual in the courtroom before she leaves – from judges, to general magistrates, to court clerks. It is expressing excitement about each additional training session – knowing they will make her a better advocate. It is walking with one of the young adults she represents to help him tour apartments, as opposed to just sending him off on his own. It is making everyone she encounters feel seen and appreciated, heard and cared for.
Her investment in the energy of those she is with – in their mood and their feelings, as well as her own – is nothing short of transformative. Her approach to the workplace has taught me that even the smallest efforts to infuse one’s daily choices with warmth and care pay enormous dividends – a cascade effect of strength that makes difficult work more manageable and feasible.