Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant, for they too have their story.
As we decorated the tree on Monday evening, general discussion centred around this idea; that of speaking your truth. The irony of the Desiderata poem promoting not telling porkies when its very origin has been wrapped up in all manner of heresay (the copy which arrived on the Homestead by way of The Renovator’s Year 12 English class claimed it was anonymous and discovered in a Baltimore church in the 1600’s when a little googling shows it to have been penned circa 1920, copyright Max Ehrmann) is not lost on us, it’s just: who cares when the words are just so blimmin’ relevant?
But all that aside and to recap, as we flung our motley but very precious collection of tat and tinsel at the tree on Monday night, we were talking about telling the truth. Why? Two words: Secret Santa. In recent years, we have utilised the method of putting everyone’s name into a container, drawing one each in turn, and purchasing a small gift for this person, aka Secret Santa, to ensure there is one present for each Homesteader under Oma and Pop’s tree on Christmas Eve. The problem is the “secret” aspect of the title. Generally by the time the presents are distributed by whoever is playing elf, the recipient is well aware of, if not the givers identity, certainly the contents of the gift and, boy! does this irk a couple of our number. “Why go through the pretence of secrecy when you end up telling someone exactly how you would like the allocated twenty dollars spent?” they stormed, “What about the magic of Christmas?”
It’s an utterly reasonable argument, but in a home where not a lot of money is allocated to gift giving, most agreed they preferred receiving something they liked over mission bin fodder or, even worse, a rubbish “joke” present. A fluoro plastic wig, huge plastic sunglasses and a chocolate bar to bump it up to the required amount spent: what a knee-slapper! No, it was conceded, better to speak your truth quietly and into the correct ear in this instance.
Not three days later the whole speaking the truth deal arose again, this time from that most mild-mannered of Homesteader, The Bean Counter. He had been summonsed by his off-Homestead work High Command for his bi-annual Review. In theory, these are a wonderful idea. It gives the workplace the opportunity to celebrate triumphs and readdress no-so-triumphs, dole out back pats and brick bats accordingly and, basically, review how the individual is performing from the perspective of The Boss. In practice, workplace etiquette is so tied up with what you can and can’t say, how you can or can’t say it, and an employers horror of acting in a way as to “create a precedent” that what you are left with is a mush of mumbled platitudes and bar graphs. “What would the harm be in telling it like it is?” we raged, “and what a waste of an afternoon,” The Bean Counter quietly added. We suspect that when it comes to employee reviews, the fear of being slapped with a personal grievance far outweighs speaking quietly and clearly.
Which is a dilemma The Renovator was faced with last night. To get a little extra into the Homestead coffers, The Renovator has spent a lot of time over the years waiting on tables. At one stage he even felt this may be his calling in life and obtained his Duty Managers Licence, allowing him to be in charge of an establishment that sells liquor; it was in this capacity that he, last night, was working the tables at a local restaurant (only four more weeks to go until he stops doing this forever!). New Zealand licencing law prohibits liquor purchased in restaurants (such as the one he is currently employed) being removed from the premises (on-licence); failing to adhere to this can result in a large fine for both the establishment and the Duty Manager personally. Most people get it, are happy when it is explained and their unopened bottles are refunded, and all is good. Last night, however, while the unopened bottles were being refunded as part of cashing up a large party, one party member decided to grab a half finished one, hide it under their coat, and head for the hills. What would you do were you The Renovator?
We’re proud that he chose to confront and speak his truth in a manner (according to witnesses – this is a local restaurant after all) quietly and clearly. That the patron begrudgingly returned the bottle after a large dollop of not speaking the truth rather loudly and obnoxiously was a positive outcome. Thankfully when the lady called to complain this morning, The Renovator’s employer listened but didn’t give much credence to their story.
So, on the Homestead the tree is up, the carols are blasting, all manner of Secret Santa negotiation is taking place and we’re starting to feel a bit like Christmas, sure in the knowledge that, to borrow dear old Max’s words again,
…it is still a beautiful world.