I'm ready for us to get Martin Luther King day off at work. I'm not going to go into a long explanation as to why other than to say that the Reverend is very symbolic of what makes America great to all of us regardless of our individual backgrounds and I can't think of a good reason why we don't get this day off but get others off. There are more reasons. I know that I, for one, could benefit from learning a little bit more about MLK Jr. and experiencing some holidays outside of those I grew up observing. I'm sure that some other people might prefer to simply observe the holidays that they knew as a child; the ones that they feel comfortable with, the ones that don't require learning.
I know that some companies give employees a set number of holidays and allow them to be taken whenever. I like that idea. I also like the fact that companies (like Microsoft) are working to expose employees to the diversity of their fellow employees. We have a number of cultural events on campus. I'm all about experiencing new things.
When I lived in California, I had a co-worker and close friend from India who celebrated a religion I was not familiar with (he knows who he is...he doesn't have to reveal his identity : )). I don't think I ever told him how much I appreciated the time he spent with me educating me on his religion and culture. We went to Indian restaurants, Indian stores, we talked about his lifestyle in Mumbai and his family. It was incredibly eye-opening for me at a time when I think I may have lacked the maturity and curiosity to care as much about the world around me as I do today. He did me a great favor and I still consider him a good friend today (though we mostly just do catch-up e-mails). And I will never forget the vegetarian enchiladas we had for Christmas and the tree with chili pepper lights. His family did a good job of blending holiday traditions. It was really fun.
One challenge I think that many people have in the workplace is that they are afraid to ask people about their traditions. They feel that it might be an "HR violation" because it's too personal. I have to admit that I often have questions come to mind that go unanswered because I am afraid of offending someone with my nosiness. I think that many people have some discomfort talking about religions, ethnic traditions, culture and customs. I'm not sure I have an answer as to whether this is something that should or should not be discussed in the workplace other than to say that my general approach is to let the person I am curious about take the lead. If they want to share with me, I'm ready to soak it up. I think that being open is the first step.
It's kind of late to put this into effect today (though I do plan on watching a web cast of Jesse Jackson who is in our Chicago office today, when I get back to the office), but it occurred to me that I had some control over how I celebrate holidays .We get 2 floating holidays and 1 personal day each year in addition to the company set holidays and our vacation time. I think I have already blogged about how I always end up with leftover vacation time at the end of the year. What I would like to do is use those three days to celebrate holidays that I did not grow up with. I might need some help with this. I'm open to which holidays these are (but I should mention that I grew up in a family that celebrates Christian holidays so I already know all about those), but I want to see if I can find people that are willing to introduce me to their holiday/cultural traditions. I'm sure not everybody wants to invite me to their home (hee!) and that is not what I am going for, but I am open to cooking classes, cultural events, shopping trips (especially shopping trips), restaurants; whatever will help me experience the tradition. Not just celebrating *on* a specific holiday day.
Does this sound crazy? I'm actually excited about it now that I have chosen to do it. Hopefully someone is willing to be the teacher if I am willing to be the student.
Happy Martin Luther King, Junior Day!