“Courage is grace under pressure” -Ernest Hemingway
I will never forget one day, me and my fellow interns were excited because our team got selected to do the Christmas decorations for one of the local city’s venues holiday celebration event. Our mentor was pulling no punches as we got streamers, posters, trees, lights, stars, glitter, banners; you name it, we got it.
Two of my fellow interns worked around the clock to prepare a massive wooden sign that would say, “Merry Christmas” for all of the city to see. This decoration became our mascot for the movement. We were so excited and could not believe the opportunity that had been afforded to us.
However, when the day came to actually physically decorate the venue, we were met with much resistance. Now, all of these decorations had been pre-approved by the venue’s committee, so it was not as if we showed up to surprise them.
Three of the venue’s managers came in and demanded we make changes. We had Christmas trees for every continent in the world (decorated as traditionally as possible for each continent’s way of celebrating the winter season) and we put them closest to the box office. The trees, the managers proclaimed, were too close together and needed to be separated. We set up a patriot tree for our veterans to wish them all a very Christmas. The veteran tree, which we put prominently at the front was moved to the downstairs entrance where it was less likely to be seen.
All day long they picked our decorating skills apart one by one, but the kicker, and the hardest to swallow, was them making us take down our giant wooden “Merry Christmas” sign. They vehemently denied that it was because it had the title of the holiday, and insisted it was because they did not want a wooden one, merely a banner.
My mentor tried to plead on behalf of the sign, knowing what it meant to us, but the very person who gave us the job showed up with her own sign for us to hang. One that said, “Celebrate Around The World” with a smaller sign that said, “Merry Christmas” to go below it.
We were so disappointed. Our whole team was upset that we had put in so much effort, especially the two that had used their carpentry skills to make the wooden sign, only to have thrown in our face.
Though that day ended in with us feeling letdown, I will never forget how my mentor handled the situation with such grace. While visibly worried about our project, she never once lost her composure or her temper. She handled everything elegantly and handled our issues diplomatically.
Afterwards, she consoled us and said that though the day did not go as well as we hoped, the event itself would be a huge success and we had done a great service for this city.
You know what? She was right. We celebrated Christmas with so many people of all kinds of backgrounds and gave presents to every child that was there that day. Trust me when I say, there were plenty, and not one was sent home without a gift.
I learned something important that day. If you handle disappointment with grace, even when it is hard, you will find yourself on the other side a better person. If my mentor had lost her composure or had gotten angry, what really would have been achieved? It most likely would have changed nothing.
At the end of the day, even though we did not get it done our way, thanks to the grace shown by my mentor, we still made the holiday something special for a lot of people.