An Unexpected Gift

Authored by: Sonja Kania, Chief Talent & Social Capital Officer

It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I was sitting at my desk, feeling a sense of  relief because I had successfully got both of my young kids fed, dressed, teeth brushed and dropped off at daycare before 9:00am. And to top it all off, I only had one more day of work before our four-day weekend began.  In my mind, it was just another day of tackling my to-do list, attending meetings, etc.

However, shortly after I began reviewing my to-do list, I received a phone call from a colleague asking if I had a “free minute” because one of the youth from Norris Academy made me a gift and wanted to drop it off. Of course I had a million things on my to-do list before I headed into the long weekend but I immediately paused and thought “Wow!  A gift?  For me?”  The gift in fact brought tears to my eyes but of course I felt I couldn’t show those tears until after Michael* left because I didn’t want to totally embarrass him (keep in mind he’s a teenager). The gift (featured in this blog) was handmade by Michael in the woodshop at the Norris Academy School where the boys on campus receive their education.The gift was inspired by a conversation that took place with myself and Michael and several other staff almost six months ago. The gift brought tears to my eyes because I have only been working at Norris for six months and yet someone, somehow, for some reason remembered that this Maya Angelou quote was so very important to me and the work that we do here on campus and in our communities.  

The quote says this “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I am constantly telling those around me that everything we do begins with relationships and begins with how we treat one another, which is why I feel such a connection to this quote. It is also why I feel such a connection to the mission and philosophy of the work that we do here at Norris and Norris Academy. One of our goals is to build relationships with the kids that stay here; our goal is to treat them with respect, courtesy and genuineness. Our hope is that they will demonstrate those same skills and traits. I believe Michael has.

My hope is that everyone will take time during the Holiday Season to put away those to-do lists and focus on spending time with family, friends and loved ones because those relationships are what matter most. My hope is that we can continue to have a positive impact on these youth so they will continue to give to those around them despite the challenges they have faced in life. My hope is that Michael will recognize how truly talented he is and continue to share his gifts with others and find enjoyment in the creative work that he is doing. Take time to be grateful. This last Thanksgiving I was grateful for Michael. Grateful for his creativity, generosity and reminding us that everyday we have an opportunity to make a positive impact on those around us. Thank you Michael!! 

*Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.