Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winning the Lottery with Theresa

As a Change Consultant I am very fortunate to meet many people at different customer sites. That is one of the benefits that helped convince me to make the career shift to consulting and I have not been disappointed. Everyone I meet has a wonderful story to tell and each teaches or reinforces something to me. One of the greatest reinforcement lessons I learned came in the past few months.

I was contracted by a local organization mainly to help implement two projects. As part of the transition of these projects to me by the current project manager, I was told that one of the team members on the project had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year. Likely, she would continue to be off intermittently while receiving treatments. I was told further that this person had such great spirit that most people wouldn’t even know about her diagnosis. That was absolutely true.

In the first few meetings with the project team, I completely forgot about this information. I was routinely meeting with Theresa and Scott, the primary business leads, and occasionally with the IT group. The only thing I noticed was that Theresa had a flair for wearing great hats.

Everyday she came in with a different hat on. Each matched her outfit perfectly. Whether it was a beret, cloche, fedora, floppy brim, medium brim or a simple baseball cap, she always wore them with style. Her hats became part of her ensemble like her wedding ring – they just fit, as did she. I was shocked to find out she was the one with cancer; now the hats made more sense. Just as Theresa likely did with everything in her life, she made a seeming necessity fit routinely, yet stylishly within her makeup.

As I was introduced to more employees at the customer site, I began to notice that many of them had their workstations decorated with a deep ‘homey’ touch. Each was unique in color, style and d├ęcor, but all felt more like walking into a living room than an office cubicle. I wasn’t surprised when I was told Theresa had decorated them. She made me feel at home whether it was with her decorations or her warm, open personality. It only made sense that she made cubicles feel like home.

In the 4 months that I worked with Theresa, I never caught a hint of sorrow, self-pity, doubt or anger. She accepted her challenge and portrayed a person of full health, ready to live a great life for 50 more years. Even though we knew the toll her treatments had to be taking on her, she never flinched. She showed up at the office everyday with spunk, drive, full of vitality, ready to take on the world. No one would have thought less of her had she let her goals lapse, but that’s not Theresa. She simply added recovery to her set of goals and moved forward.

I found out recently that Theresa’s last exam revealed a new situation and the news was not good; not good for me and all the others who know her. I’m confident that this next journey for Theresa will be met with the same passion and zest that she has shown me these past 4 months.

For me, my journey with her ends much too soon. She reinforced for me so strongly the need to love life, to attack it with vigor, yet at the same time, care for it as gently as I would my baby boys. Life can be an endless journey of opportunities and achievements or as fleeting as the presence of lilac in Spring. Either way, it is precious and without comparison – just like Theresa. I went beyond winning the lottery when I met this lady with the hat.

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