Saturday, February 19, 2011

The toothbrush walk

Soon after I started my full-time job, I went to the dentist and learned that I had a cavity. It was the first cavity that I had received in fifteen years. Determined not to get another, I took a toothbrush to work and began brushing my teeth every day after lunch.

Typically, it is after I brush my teeth that I take the long way back to my office. It is by this route that I pass the offices of many other of my colleagues. Perhaps around 1:30 or 2 PM they have come to expect the sight of me strutting by with a toothbrush in hand or even propped in the front pocket of my shirt.

Generally, I try to stop to talk to at least one colleague each afternoon. I may tell them about one of my projects. I may ask them about their families. I may discuss some humorous trivia. I may answer a question about the latest riddle posted on my board.

Seeing me carrying a toothbrush down the hallway probably already gives them a dose of amusement. ("Why in the world is he carrying around that silly toothbrush?" they may ask.) But I hope that the substance of my visit also brings some light-heartedness to their afternoon.

I think that visiting my colleagues after I brush my teeth is a good way for me to connect with them.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thinking about an office Rosary

At Case Western Reserve University, we had a group that prayed the Rosary every night at 9:30 PM at a picnic table outside the dorms (or in a lobby in the winter).

At North Carolina State University, I was part of a different group that increased its frequency each semester, eventually meeting to pray the Rosary outside of the student center each weekday afternoon.

In both places, praying the Rosary amidst studies was an edifying routine. I think that it helped my faith. I think that it also helped my studies.

Could a similarly regular Rosary group be formed at my current research lab? What would it be like to pray with others amidst a workday? How might it help our laboratory? This possibility has been on my heart for several years.

If such a Rosary group became an officially recognized organization, we could reserve conference rooms and meet there. Alternatively, we could try to find a distant table in one of the cafeterias. Where else could we meet?

Perhaps we could meet once a week during lunchtime. Or, we might find it more practical to meet in the morning. Are there other times that would work better?

How willing would fellow Catholic colleagues be to participate? Would potential conflicts with deadlines, meetings, or experiments deter them? Other groups meet for Bible studies or prayer groups during the day (I've been to some). Would there be more aversion to a formal prayer like the Rosary?

"For all the intentions of our laboratory, of our sponsors, of our supervisors, of our colleagues, and of their families, ..." For these things, we might pray.

Next to my desk, I have a small Marian prayer card on which I have written, "Mary, Queen of the Office, pray for us!" May she also intercede for the fruition of this Rosary group idea, if it please her son.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The chance to be friendly

A heavier-set fellow with a bright red sweater and energetic blond hair moved about the banquet hall. Eight months ago, I had met him at a Nationals baseball game with our lab's "Young Professionals Network." What was the chance that "Sam" would remember me? I debated whether I should say hello to him.

At the game last May, he had come by himself, and indicated that he knew very few colleagues after recently starting to work. I'd had a choppy but persistent conversation with him then. By now, maybe he had gotten to know more colleagues and was less "on his own." Then again, he appeared to have come to this large lunch gathering by himself. Maybe he would appreciate if someone like me reached out to him.

A Gospel choir sang loudly, followed by an exuberant historical reenactor. If I tried to say hello, Sam might not even hear me. He might be caught by surprise. He might not understand me. We might try to prolong the conversation but not know what to say. He might feel as though I was only saying hello because I was feeling sorry for him and feel badly about that.

I watched Sam finish his lunch, then move on to dessert, and to a cup of soda. If only he had already left, it would have solved my dilemma. (Since he wouldn't be there, I couldn't say hello.) But instead, I was the one to leave.

Walking back to my office, I realized that I hadn't been thinking ahead about being friendly when I arrived at this lunch gathering. Instead, I was mostly thinking about eating lunch as reasonably quickly as possible so that I would have less time to make up later in the afternoon. But being friendly to a stranger might have been the most meaningful thing that I would have done all day.

"Lord," I prayed, "I'm sorry that I might have missed a chance to be an encouragement to another. I'd like to do a better job at this. If You would like me to reach out to Sam, could You please help me to run into him again?"