Last week, my wife and I participated in a LOVESTRONG Marriage team meeting at St. Monica Catholic Church in Converse, Texas, which is a suburb of San Antonio. She and I are serving on the Decorations Team for this March 2023 retreat, which means that one of our responsibilities is the Date Night event.

St. Monica, like some other parishes, has a K-8 school, which works in our favor because they have additional facilities for us to use for the retreat. We decided that Date Night will be held in the school’s cafeteria.

As an instructor, I love walking through schools. There is something intoxicating and exhilarating when I’m in a place where learning happens.

The Message on the Wall

After entering the cafeteria, I observed posters on the wall, which is typical of the hard work teachers perform to create a friendly, loving, and accepting environment.

Two side-by-side posters with red and blue lettering caught my attention, and they read:

If you see …

Another student struggling to make friends …
Another student being picked on …
A student who is new or shy…
A student who is eating alone …
Be a Leader …
Say, “Hi!”
Smile at them.
Ask if you can sit with them.
Include them.
Your kindness will make a difference in someone’s life.

What a Beautiful Message

This message was prominently displayed in a school cafeteria, but the importance of what it says should apply everywhere, especially in the workplace.

When we observe a new employee who is eating alone, we should take the lead and invite that person to join us. I remember the days when I was overly shy, and I was scared that others would reject me.

In my case, when I first started at Shell Oil Company back in 1990, I had zero corporate experience. I was nervous to be around other people because I might just have nothing to say about what is being discussed.

I may look like a fool, causing significant embarrassment.

However, I’ve learned over the years that I just need to be myself when I am around others. If I am genuine, caring, and respectful, I can fit in with any group.

Be a Leader

The main message from the middle school teacher was to be a leader. As you can tell from the simple words on the poster, leadership has little to do with IQ level.

It has nearly everything to do with caring about other people. This means that great leaders are constantly aware of their surroundings. When they are unsure about something or someone, they are proactive and do what they can to learn more.

The more I think about it … leading is much simpler than I thought. Even when someone on my team makes a mistake, I can heed the advice I learned at St. Monica and lead with kindness.

It’s obvious that mistakes are part of the learning process, and I’ve made more than my share.

When kindness is present, any relationship, whether personal or professional, will flourish.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4.