Recently, I returned home to find a bar of dark chocolate with a ribbon around it at my doorstep. There was no card or acknowledgement – just a little bar of delight waiting there for me. I waited a few days to see if someone was going to own up to leaving it there. But no confession surfaced. Each night for the rest of that week, I enjoyed a square or two of my mystery chocolate. You see, I LOVE chocolate. Someone who really knew me must have left this goody at my door. And I felt held in the knowledge that someone, whoever they were, really knew how to brighten my day.
In the Jewish tradition, this little act of generosity is called a mitzvah. A mitzvah is a good deed done without expectation of return. These are deeds that are small, personal and, if you can arrange it, anonymous. They grow from relationships, which makes mitzvahs genuine and from the heart. Mitzvahs can be spontaneous and fun, and they are a deeply powerful way to “warm the soil” in your organization. Soil warming is a crucial first step in any kind of organization wanting to implement person-directed care. All you have to do is model the way and watch how quickly your team catches on. As you grow a culture of generosity, watch it spill over into the relationships with the Elder care partners.
As an Eden Educator, I often hear people brush off the mitzvah as a vital part of getting started on a culture change journey. I hear things like, “Yeah, that sounds nice, but we want to jump into changing different parts of our operations right away.” Successful culture changers, however, know that this is putting the cart way before the horse. Don’t forget the wisdom the garden teaches us… nothing grows well in cold soil. Belittle the power of soil warming, and you risk derailing your organization’s transformation process from the start.
As Thanksgiving approaches and we’re inspired to reflect on all of the things we are grateful for, I challenge you to express your appreciation for the different members of your care partner team performing a mitzvah a week between now and the New Year. Imagine how much fun it will be to really tune in to one person at a time, recalling – or even noticing for the first time – what brings them joy, no matter how small the experience may be. Envision the pleasure you’ll receive watching them from afar, as they discover this little gift of appreciation, without any knowledge of where it came from! Could anything be more fun?! A mitzvah needn’t be elaborate; all it needs to be is thoughtful.
Consider creating a place in your organization where people can leave written appreciations for each other in little gift bags. Find out what someone’s favorite treat or food is and surprise them with it. Learn about the simple pleasures of the people you work with. Find little ways to help honor those simple pleasures. This is a great opportunity to celebrate everyone as individuals and bring to life what we teach.
We want to hear about how mitzvahs are shared in your organization. What are your ideas or your successes? In this season of sharing what nurtures and nourishes us, don’t forget to share what you’ve learned along the way.