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Monday, December 6, 2021
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We Are All (Just) Secretaries

As the weather begins to slowly change and become cooler, quieter days begin to set in. I’d like to lower the temperature a bit and do something a little different for my column this week. I’m a pluviophile and I enjoy somber rainy days with shorter daylight hours and longer evenings and nights. It is most therapeutic for me and evokes in me a most tranquil feeling of serenity. But more so, it causes one to reflect. To think and take things into perspective as the day’s subtleness embraces you. And so I sat down last evening, and as the rain gingerly slid down the window panes, my mind wandered back to a conversation I had with a dear friend almost two years ago. Permit me to share.

There’s something about me and keeping older friends. Be it the maturity, the subtle wisdom or the candidness of the conversation, I genuinely like being friends with older folks. And so, about two years ago, myself and some of my older friends caught up at a little social — needless to say this was before the advent of Covid-19. And we talked as we would normally do and engaged in scotch over scrumptious platters that were prepared potluck style. As we meandered almost effortlessly from one topic to another, one of our friends reminded the table that very soon, one of our other friends (who too was in attendance around the table), would be retiring from her place of work after almost 41 years.

Forty-one wonderful years in dedicated service to an establishment is a laudable milestone. I sat there quizzically thinking that after 41 years of service to this most prestigious company in Belize, she was probably retiring as a top manager or a senior director or something of the likes. After congratulating her on achieving such a milestone, curiosity got the best of me and I inquired of her, what position was she retiring from. I wanted to know what she did at this company. And as I eagerly waited to hear her utter the words “manager” or “director”; she smiled the brightest and warmest smile and with her face lit up, she said “secretary”.

My jaw dropped. I wonder if she noticed? I mean, she’s a friend, I don’t want her to feel that I disapprove of whatever work she did; because truly I did not. But I couldn’t begin to fathom or even conceptualize what she just said. Secretary? Secretary, I thought to myself. That can’t be. Nobody remains a secretary after 41 years in one of Belize’s most reputable companies. Plus, she is well renowned, much revered and highly regarded. The mention of her name is synonymous with the company for which she worked, so I’m thinking there’s no way she was gonna be retiring after almost 41 years of service as a secretary!

Needless to say, I probed further! I asked her how was it that after so many years of service she would be retiring as a secretary. I protested that that couldn’t be. And with a face that reflected humility and equanimity, she softly and sweetly replied: “we’re all just secretaries, honey!” I couldn’t begin to understand and conceptualize what she meant. And I was absolutely certain she wasn’t retiring a secretary. So I pried some more, and the elucidation that she gave has stuck with me ever since. She looked up and said that, regardless of the job title and the roles we hold in our establishments, it boils down to one thing: we are just secretaries; we are somebody’s secretary.

And she went on to use me as an example. Say you’re a teacher and you’re beating your chest and saying “Oh, I’m a teacher” and this and that. You are merely a secretary to the principal, just as your students are secretaries to you. When the principal calls you, you go. When the principal requests something of you, you remit it. When you ask your students to go see another teacher, they too act as secretary to you as you do to the principal. Similarly, when management asks something of the principal, he/she is a secretary to them, and similarly they are secretaries to the Ministry and the likes.

And then she turned to herself and said: “So, regardless of my job title and the position I held, it doesn’t matter. I was just a secretary. A secretary to somebody else”. She further explained that even if she was a manager at her company, there would be a secretary serving her and she would report to another senior manager or a director, which would in essence further add credence to the fact that we are all just secretaries, serving someone else. As I tried to wrap my mind around this jigsaw puzzle, she placed her hands under her cheeks and with a canny look on her face, she asked me: “but you know what the biggest take away is?”

I looked at her quite befuddled and I implored of her to share. She looked at me and said: “the biggest lesson here is that it doesn’t matter what you do; it doesn’t matter where you work or what title or position you hold: humble yourself, because we’re all just secretaries serving someone else”! And that struck me. Those words have resonated in me ever since. And as my mind reflects back on this stirring discourse, I want to encourage you today to humble yourself in whatever you do.

Despite what your title might say; whether you’re a supervisor, manager, director or CEO, truth is, we’re all (just) secretaries who are answerable to someone else. So humble yourselves in whatever roles you play and recognize that your sole and primary purpose is to serve and to serve others above yourself — in love and kindred spirits of camaraderie that builds each other up and uplifts! Don’t think otherwise or too much of yourself, cause truth be told, we are all (just) secretaries. So serve, serve others above yourself and serve with empathy and love!

Unchained Reflections Of A Liberal Pragmatist.

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