Since then I’ve been thinking about whether my response was the best one. Contrast this to a meal we had a couple of years ago. It was the evening that we met The Campbell Family, our daughter-in-law’s family, for the first time. We had gone to a hockey game with them and we were having dinner at Greg and Cara’s afterward. Cara’s sister Karly asked what she could bring and Cara asked her to bring some cheeses for an appetizer. When Karly arrived, she did have some cheeses. She told us that she had gone online to find out what made up a good cheese tray. One tidbit of advice she found was that she should include a ‘conversation cheese’. And so she did. And we made sure that once we all had a good laugh about this, that we had a conversation about the cheese. If there had been any awkwardness involved in this initial meeting, it certainly was eradicated by the time we had all sampled and earnestly conversed about the cheese! To this day, we all look forward to what ‘conversation cheese’ will show up at the next family gathering.
So I have been thinking about this idea; this idea of what we bring to the table. Sometimes when a company is hiring a new employee the question of “What do you bring to the table”, is posed. In this case the company is anxious to find out what skills and strengths a prospective employee might have that would fit well with the company. This idea of bringing something to the table might also be used when we join a group or a committee. We each like to think that we have some special skills that others may find valuable.
What we bring to the table is an important consideration in many parts of our lives. We often give it due consideration when we are working with colleagues or with committee members; however, we often overlook its importance in our own personal lives.
In my work, I am privileged to witness people in all stages of their lives. In my personal life, away from work, I also tend to be an observer of people and of relationships. I love to observe the qualities that different people ‘bring to the table’. Quite a few years ago when Jim and I ‘realized’ that our children would soon be heading away from home to University and beyond, we talked about the importance of us putting some conscious thought into what was next for us. We knew that we had happily spent decades planning a life around our kids. Many of our conversations had been centered on scheduling our kids’ activities and family holidays. It became obvious to us that if we did not do some proactive planning, then we would get to the day when we sat across from each other and had very little to say. In the truest sense of the word, we would sit at a very empty table. It was at this time that I began to wonder, “What do I bring to the table?”
When Kaitlyn and Greg had both headed off to University and our house was kid-free, Greg called one evening to chat. After he told me all about his exciting news from university; about the teams he was joining and the information he was learning and the friends he was making, and the activities he was a part of, he asked, “What about you, Mom? What’s new with you this week?” (Yikes! How did my kids learn to ask such good questions?) Again, I was forced to ponder the question, “What do I bring to the table?”
At that time, I made the decision to make sure that I was filling my life with things that I would be proud to bring to any table. I wanted to be able to answer this question honestly and with pride when I talked to my kids. I wanted to have a life that had enough interesting things in it, that I that I would feel I had something to share. I love going to a meeting, or party or get-together and talking with interesting people. The people who naturally gather people to themselves do so because they have interesting lives that they ‘bring to the table’.
To this day, I cannot recall what kind of cheese Karly brought to Cara and Greg’s house that day. I can, however, recall clearly the other things she brought to the table. She brought her welcoming attitude, she brought her confidence, she brought her sense of humour and her ability to laugh at herself, she brought her intelligence and her openness, she brought her curiosity, she brought her love of her family and her genuine acceptance of our son, she brought her good nature and she brought her kindness.
When I reflect on our Thanksgiving meal from last week I realize that although I did not ask for people to bring something to the table in a literal way, in fact I did ask them to bring the most important thing of all; I asked them to bring their full selves. This, much more than the food, is what made our Thanksgiving so memorable. Everyone felt included, everyone brought unique stories and strengths, everyone made everyone else feel welcome and hopefully everyone left feeling like they had brought something of value to the table. If only we had had a conversation cheese!
My inquiry for you this week is to ask yourself the question, “What do I bring to the table?”
Perhaps you want to investigate how to consciously bring your best self to the table. Contact me today to learn more about how we can work together to facilitate the change you want.