Our Most Wonderful Time
by Gary Burnison
It's the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It's the most wonderful time of the year
There I was, crouched on the floor at two o’clock in the morning—pliers in one hand, a screwdriver in the other, and a flashlight tucked under my chin. Scattered across the floor were nuts, bolts, and screws—along with nearly incomprehensible directions for assembling a tricycle.
And this song—made famous by Andy Williams in the 1960s and played every year since then—kept running through my head.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year …
That evening, in the very last hour of the holiday shopping season, I had rushed to the mall where I scored the last tricycle before the store closed. A weary salesperson had assured me that putting it together would be “easy—anyone can do it.”
With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer …
Except … I had just put the handlebars on backwards.
A little frustrating then, but a cherished memory now. I can still picture the kids getting up a few hours after I had finally crawled off to bed and finding that half-built tricycle with one wheel that dragged. I assured them that I could fix what Santa hadn’t finished. And even though that one wheel was never quite right, the kids didn’t notice.
To be honest, the holidays don’t always feel the same to me compared to those days. Maybe it’s because my children are older. But there’s a deeper reason, too. The last two years may have changed our rituals and perhaps altered some of our traditions. Even as we come together with somewhat more normalcy this year, there’s no going back to exactly how things were. We’ve been changed—and that’s okay.
And the truth is things aren’t always as perfect as we remember them—and we certainly aren’t perfect either. But in our imperfect humanness, we can find what really matters. As we peel back the layers, two timeless treasures shine the brightest, and we’ve come to appreciate them all the more in the past couple of years.
The first is grace. Embodying our better selves, grace shines a light for others. Grace is perspective—and an action. It is the gift of goodwill. Always and everywhere, grace guides us as we strive to be good leaders, better colleagues, and the best of friends.
The second is empathy. We know that people are not all the same, nor are they in the same place. But with empathy and compassion, we can meet them wherever they are and provide them with what they truly need—especially when they need assurance.
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It was many years ago when my son, Jack, was only five years old. He looked so small in that sterile pre-op room at a hospital where he was undergoing surgery. We had all been calm the night before. But after getting up at the crack of dawn, the gravity of the situation hit when the nurse came in to put a needle in Jack’s arm.
His eyes wide, Jack turned to me and asked, “Daddy, will everything be OK?”
Every parent, throughout time, has surely been asked this question, but for me this was the first time. Startled by the sheer fear I felt inside, I forced confidence into my voice. “Yes,” I told him. “It’s going to be OK.”
That’s exactly what we’ve all been doing. It’s not about making all our problems disappear—or making all the wheels turn perfectly (like that long-ago tricycle). Rather, it’s engaging with others to get past one challenge, celebrate success, and together move on to the next one. Along the way, we’ve gained an even deeper appreciation for the indomitable human spirit.
When we pause to savor just how far we’ve come this year, we see more clearly how much more capable we’ve become. Most of all, we don’t have to go it alone nor should we. It’s not about us; it’s never about us. It’s all about others. The roles are constantly shifting—at times we are the benefactor, and other times the recipient.
At this time of remembrance and gratitude, we extend a special thanks to everyone, near and far. We hold them all in our hearts: clients and colleagues, family and friends. Those who reached out and connected with others … gave of themselves … looked honestly in the mirror and decided to change … opened their hearts to share … opened their ears to listen … humbled themselves to learn … gave assurance that everything will be OK. In short, all those who touched our lives with their Gratitude, Resilience, Aspiration, Courage, and Empathy.
Here’s to those we knew long ago, those who are with us now, and those we’ve yet to meet. May you all have a wonderful holiday season, with an abundance of health and happiness in the New Year.