I saw this sign outside of a local salad placed called sweetgreen a few weeks ago.
But I didn’t really feel it until this morning.
Something special happened at work today. Something very special. Something all of us will remember for the rest of our lives.
The day started with a typical monthly All Hands meeting. As a company, we come together, celebrate successes, appreciate each other, and strategize for the future.
Today was different.
Each of us had just finished opening our very own Fitbit Flex with our new company branding on it.
We’re going to be participating in a company-wide movement campaign called On the Move this spring. Integrating our Fitbits into the challenge will be one more way for us to come together for some healthy competition, something our close-knit group enjoys.
Moments later, Richard Silberstein, our CEO, pulled out a pack of handwritten thank you notes. He had personally written one to every employee at our organization. He requested we open them later.
As we approached the close of the meeting, Richard, a man I’ve known for half my life and worked for for over a decade, did something totally unexpected.
He pulled up a slide with a picture of an older bearded man wearing glasses and a hat, who was sitting in an armchair.
“Does anyone know who this is?” he asked.
“Santa Claus?!” was the response.
Laughter ensued. Then the room grew quiet, as Richard invited us in to what was the most emotional, authentic, and memorable moment of my career here.
He explained how he has befriended this man, Scotty, a Vietnam vet, who hangs out at the Starbucks in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware – a place Richard vacations throughout the year and has a family home.
Richard is a social guy and one of the most well-connected, relational people I know, so it’s no surprise that he would buddy up with and get to know someone he sees regularly.
He told us how Scotty was one of those people who is often misunderstood and who might be passed over by the average person. But Scotty and Richard have formed a connection and a bond. I’ve heard Richard talk about him before, but the story he told moments later forever changed how we will see this man.
Richard started to get choked up as he reflected on his friendship and conversations with Scotty, a man who has regularly attends AA and is often in “a bad place.”
He reminded us of how fortunate we are, how we have so much.
Richard told us how he decided to Pay It Forward and give Scotty $100 as a gift. Scotty was speechless but grateful. He wasn’t going to use it for himself, even though he surely needed it. He was going to share it with his fellow army vets, so they could at least have something for Christmas, since none of them has any family or even homes in which to live.
At that moment, Richard pulled out an envelope.
“I’m going to give each of you $100 to pay it forward. Give it to someone else – anyone you want.”
That’s what I was feeling.
All of us were.
The wheels in my mind started spinning, “Who would I gift my $100 to?”
The cleaning crew? The maintenance men? A mother at a toy store? The janitor at my husband’s school? The pastor on a teacher’s salary with three kids?
You could tell everyone was thinking the same thing, “How will I share this gift? With whom? When? How will they respond?”
By this point, there was barely a dry eye in the room.
But Richard wasn’t finished yet.
“I’m going to give each of you another $100 as a thank you. This has been a challenging year and you’ve worked hard. You can use it for yourself or give it to someone else.”
Each of us sat there stunned, overwhelmed with gratitude for what we had just experienced.
Anyone who knows Richard knows him to be a generous man.
Have a college kid looking for a job? Send Richard their resume.
Have a daughter applying to Richard’s alma mater, where he serves as a board member? Call Richard.
Have a family member who just received a devastating diagnosis and needs the best medical care possible? Give Richard a buzz.
Everyone in that room this morning was humbled by what happened. Very few people ever have the opportunity to experience feeling that way. But we did.
It’s something we’ll never forget.
What I experienced today reminded me why where I work truly is one of the best places to work and one of the healthiest companies, in every sense of the word “healthy.”
As I returned to my desk to reflect on what had just happened, I remembered one of Richard’s mottos, something passed down to him from his grandfather about the importance of being generous and caring for other people:
“If you take care of Baltimore, Baltimore will take care of you.”
Thanks for taking care of us, Richard, and for helping us take care of others.
Thank you for making this the best place to work.
I extend this charge to YOU. Take a moment to reflect on how you can give back to better someone else’s life. Feel free to share your story below!