Simple Gifts

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A few years ago, I was the subject of a newspaper article about hospice volunteering. To put me at ease—or to blow some smoke up my ass—the writer ventured, “You must be quite a people person to be able to do this.”

Yeah. Whatever.

“Listen, Sherrie,” I said. “I don’t want to write your article for you, but here’s a suggestion: If you value your credibility, please consider a different approach. I am as far from a people person as my hospice patients are from running marathons.”

Poor Sherrie didn’t know what to do with that shit.

C’mon, Sherrie! Each of us is a bundle of contradictions. Embrace the irony and revel in it, baby!

That’s precisely what I did at one of those stupid team-building conferences a client required me to attend. (Note to self: NEVER attend one again.)

The keynote speaker asked audience members to write a headline for their obituary. In addition to our names, we were limited to two nouns that described who we were. The format was: Name: blank, blank. Three blanks, tops.

We were told we would have to use these headlines at lunch as a way to introduce ourselves to our "teammates." (Is there anything more painfully awkward than having to share a meal with a bunch of strangers?)

Blank, blank. I believe the assignment exemplifies exactly what Elder Joseph Brackett had in mind when he wrote that short but ever so sweet Shaker song, “Simple Gifts,” back in 1848. “’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free/’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be…’

Those blanks—a simple gift if ever there was one—would free me attending to the morning’s mind-numbing, touchy-feely crap that makes team-building conferences the mother of all workplace rip-offs. Better yet, the speaker’s simple gift pretty much guaranteed that I would come down where I ought to be: sitting alone.

I thought and thought and thought. Chuckled and chuckled. Considered and rejected. Rejected and reconsidered. [Note to readers: This game is fun. Try it!]

And just like that, like a deer catapulted from dusky shadows, my nouns broadsided me: hospice volunteer, misanthrope. 


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