About five years ago, I received an email from a woman. She was someone I knew through work, but not very well. I still remember the date: January 2, 2008. In her email, she told me about a New Year’s resolution that she had made. She wanted to reach out to the people in her life that she admired and wanted to get to know them on a more personal level. It seemed that I was part of that resolution. She and I knew each other professionally. We were often in meetings together. Oftentimes, she and I were the only women in attendance. Her resolution was to reach out to women like me, women she knew in a professional sense, but wanted to get to know on a more personal level. I’ll admit, I was a little taken aback. Why did she want to know me? What was this all about? I remember briefly wondering if she was going to try to sell me something. Pampered Chef? Candles? I hated those kind of “parties” where women got together and then were forced out of politeness to purchase something that they didn’t want or need.
We met for lunch the following week, and it was great. We talked about our real selves, our histories, our families, our hopes for the future. What I remember most about that day was that we both cried during our lunch, and then we giggled. Ahhh….it was good to be a woman! It was good to have another woman to talk to and to be able to let down the veneer of professionalism required by being a woman in a male-dominated field.
We decided to meet for lunch on a regular basis. Our lunches continued for months, and then we decided to begin adding to our little group. We selected our first “target.” Before inviting this new woman, she and I established a set of rules for our women-only lunches. We would invite someone, but not tell them why we were asking them to join us. Of course, they would assume that it was going to be a business lunch, but when they sat down to join us, we would blow the lid off our real reason for inviting them. It was wonderful to see the looks on their faces when we told them, “We invited you, because we like you and want to get to know you!” Shock and surprise, with just a hint of suspicion. For several years, the lunches continued. The group grew to around ten women. Due to busy schedules, attendence at our regular lunches usually ranged from between 5-8 people. Without fail, the lunches were enjoyable. We didn’t allow ANY talk about work. This was all about building friendships.
The last Women’s Only lunch I attended was on the day my dad died, December 11, 2009. There were other lunches scheduled after that date, but I stopped attending the group. I have kept in touch with most of them, but several woman have moved out of the area and onto bigger and better things. While the group as a whole no longer meets, a couple of the woman have become some of my closest friends. The woman who started it all now lives in Texas, and we have lost track of each other. I haven’t talked to her in a very long time. That’s OK, though, because the positive impact she had on my life remains.
This morning, I received an email from one of the old group. It was a business-related email, but the last line read: “Wanted to touch base with you about something. We should all have lunch like we used to… We could add R and T to the group…oh my, how many wonderful women would that be????? Ha-ha!!!!”
Plodding along, day to day drudgery, nose to the grindstone. How easy it is to forget the power of a kind word! Of course we will start up the group again. I can’t wait!