A thank you is always unnecessary

Someone I look up to very much said something today that set off a thought. Which set off a realization that I felt compelled to share.

I wasn’t going to share this story with you but after what transpired I think it’s become necessary to comment on it. Funny how life works out sometimes (all the time). I’ll start off by setting the stage.

I have been interning with an amazing firm for the past three months. I have had the pleasure of meeting some tremendously talented people here. One of them is a beautiful lady who has cared for me and mentored me through all my projects. Her honesty has made me better. She has taught me in 3 months what school has been trying to teach me for a while.

My internship is coming to an end and I had made up my mind to thank her in some substantial way. I couldn’t buy her a present. I don’t think it would be looked kindly upon in North America. I did however know one way that would work. It wasn’t as grand as I wanted, but it would have to do.

The company I intern at hands out points to every associate at the beginning of every month. Associates can distribute these points among peers as a “thank you” note or as a public “good job” badge.  The number of points assigned to each associate varies with their title (and I’m assuming pay grade). The points are awarded over a Facebook like system, except everyone in the entire company is on your friends list. So every one can see how often your contributions are appreciated (or not) by your peers. These points aren’t just golden star stickers for a good job though. Collect enough and you can exchange them for stuff. Like real useful stuff. None of the happy meal toy bullshit. But remember, the points you receive can’t be given away to others. Only exchanged for stuff.

As a lowly intern I get 40 points. I had none left over from last month (they accumulate). I figured this would be my “thank you for being such a kick ass mentor” gift . It would be my very public and grand (well, you can’t even get a happy meal toy with 40 points but beggars can’t be choosers) gesture.

And so the 40 points I had been assigned sat in my account for 15 days. One more week to go and I could thank my mentor properly, officially. Just as long as nobody else came along with a grand gesture of their own, aimed right at me, I would be able to protect my points long enough for them to matter .

For those of you who believe in the law of attraction, the rest of this story will make complete sense. For everyone else, here is the moral of the story, the more you run away from something, the more likely it is to catch you. That’s not always a bad thing though.

With one week of my internship left, all interns at the firm were gathered for a fun volunteer activity. I this week is volunteer week in Canada (apparently) and we, the interns were going to get things going on the volunteer front . Set an example for the rest of the company.

Our task was to visit as many non profit organizations as we could in the span of an hour and gather contact information pertaining to volunteer coordinators at each non profit in an attempt to help build our company’s list of prospective volunteer opportunities. The masses (employees) would then be rallied to make an impact in their communities through these opportunities. The non profit locations were at a distance from the office and with limited time to complete the task  I figured that the ability to sprint would be essential to winning. I wanted to win. I always want to win.

If you haven’t caught it in a few of my other posts so far, I should tell you that I am currently undergoing physiotherapy for a partially dislocated knee. My physiotherapist has begged me to go easy on my knee since it’s been 3 months of physio, twice a week and I have yet to recover. I imagined that if I walk into her office and tell her my knee hurt because I decided to sprint, she might actually burst in tears.

Yet I wanted to partake in the festivities at work. So I kept mum until the last minute. I was assigned to a group with one other person when I revealed that I wouldn’t be able to run as per doctors orders. I didn’t want this person resenting me for my broken knee and slow speed. I was then slotted into a group of 3, which did little to nothing in terms of providing respite to my knees. I protested. Asked if I could use the subway. I was told I couldn’t. But I could contribute by doing some research at my desk. I protested a little for I wanted to smell the fresh air with my team mates but soon realized that everyone was getting ready to head out and my whining was falling to deaf ears. So I went back to my desk and did as I was told.

I returned an hour later, having completed the work assigned to me. I had worked furiously to get as much relevant information as I could into an excel sheet. Then it was time for Pizza to be served and the winners to be announced. My team had apparently had a productive run and brought back 7 valid contacts. So had another team. The prize was a card worth 50 points (points I have mentioned before). I still don’t understand how the next bit transpired but I’ll chalk it up to the law of attraction since I’m a believer.

There were two members on the winning team and three (including me) on mine. The coordinator of the event had 5 gift cards (50 points each). I didn’t understand why. Knowing that each team would have 2 – 3 members, did she think more than one group would win? She handed out 4 cards to the 4 interns that had left the building to collect contact information and had returned triumphant. She was right in doing so. Right in leaving me out. I never stepped out. I didn’t deserve the points.

My team mates begged to differ. They called out that I was on their team, the winning team and hadn’t been handed my prize. My heart melted on the spot. What the coordinator said next made it freeze right back up though. “where is Honey? I haven’t seen her.” she said. We had been speaking less than 2 minutes ago. How had she already forgotten I existed. The entire room pointed at me. I was handed my prize, reluctantly.

It was time for a group shot. I stood next to one of my team mates and thanked him for his support. He said with a smile “it was for you, we did it all for you”. Such a sweet lie, but I liked it better than the truth.

We went to our desks after several photos had been taken. I resumed my normal working day but couldn’t keep the warm feeling (due the kindness of my team mates) from warming my heart.  While in the middle of one of my projects I decided to take a break and thank my team mates for their thoughtfulness. But how to thank them without using up my measly 40 points? I think that important question slipped my mind completely. I sent each of my team mates 10 points each. When I realized what I had done, I had a mini heart attack. Well I still had 20 points in the bank. That and a cup of coffee would work as a thank you note for my mentor right? Nope.

5 minutes later I saw one of my team mates send 20 points my way. Soon the other followed. They had given me 40 points in total. When I had done nothing for them. I couldn’t just sit there. I handed them the 20 remaining points I had, increments of 10 each.

I was clearly very bad at taking care of my points. I had woken up with a plan and 40 points this morning. I was short the points. I needed a new plan. Which came easily. I would just gift my mentor the 50 points I had “won”. That would work right? It wouldn’t be public. It was also in a gift card format. That would just look weird, like I was bribing her. I argued with myself. I have no alternative, I argued back. I won the argument. Before I could change my mind I approached my mentor, gift card in hand.

“I have never done this before. It might be super awkward ” I  said. Yes that’s exactly what I said. I’m weird like that. “are you ready? ” i asked playing off her facial expressions now. ” I’m getting concerned now” she said. She actually looked concerned. So I fumbled my way through explaining everything to her. How I intended on thanking her. How the whole plan went awry. How I figured a gift card would be sort of similar. And how I think she was awesome and I really wanted her to have the points.

Ps: I’m making it sound much better than it really was. I was red in the face with embarrassment the entire time. She tried super hard to avoid the gift card.

She eventually accepted my gift but kept repeating the sentence “this is absolutely unnecessary but very kind of you.” At the time that I heard her repeat it continuously , I was too embarrassed to actually comprehend it. Later though I realized what I should have replied to her statement with.

The points I was gifting her were my way of saying thanks. She was right, it was unnecessary. A thank you is never necessary. No one would die if I didn’t thank her.

But she was also wrong about something. I wasn’t doing it because I was being nice.  I was doing it because I wanted to express how grateful I was for her mentorship . I was doing it out of the selfish need to show her how much I appreciated her time and effort. But now I fear that I wasn’t able to clearly express my gratitude. Now I’m not sure if she knows.

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