I had an interesting relationship with my grandmother. On one hand, she worked hard to keep me hidden from her friends in her Orthodox Jewish community given my brown skin. On the other hand, she was my biggest advocate, always pushing me to go to law school and be a strong and confident person. I was never allowed to go to family gatherings, but she and I enjoyed visiting the kosher deli when she visited me in Colorado. No photos of me lined the walls of her home, but mine were the only ones to be seen in her bedroom after her death. No matter her shortcomings, I could always see the light in her.
My best friend in college would always ask me how I could love my mother’s side of the family. Not surprisingly, she never understood my very complicated relationship with them. How could I expect her to? Her experience was different than mine. Her frame was not filled with as much rejection, feelings of being unworthy and a deep desire to belong.
After a lifetime of living inside that complexity, I found myself in a gifted position; I could see people as multi-dimensional and forgive their imperfections in a way that others could not. Thankfully, I had this way of seeing the smallest of positive changes even in the most broken people. I had a deep belief that people could be good, wanted to be better, needed to fight harder to get there, but they needed help.
After introspection, I think this belief is what made me a caring manager, makes me an empathetic coach, and helps me meet my clients where they are when partnering with them for cultural change. I can’t help myself in seeing the light in others!
This frame, or way of walking through the world, is not always easy, because people often disappoint. I know I disappoint as well. Sometimes, I am more disappointed in their disappointment in themselves. I hope so much for their fruitful growth. I think that I see my hope as an elixir to uplift others. It’s worked before. Maybe, it can work next time too?
This might all sound like a naïve way to live, but it is my way. I could have chosen to be an unforgiving pessimist who mistrusted everyone and fell victim to my circumstances. I chose a different path. As such, today and every day, I choose to see the light in everyone who comes my way. I watch for it! I don’t ignore the darkness, but I don’t rest in it, and I intentionally switch my lens. By doing so, I find the most fascinating truths in the most unlikely places. It also allows me to truly be a catalyst for deep transformation.
I hope the same for you as well.
With fondness, I still hear my grandmother’s voice calling me, “Hedda Hoppa”, which was just a loving nickname she would call me. In my heart, I will never forget her telling me to, “Keep your chin up and never let’em see you sweat!”. Yes, I choose to focus on those memories.
I choose to see the light.