Gallery

Letters

Dropping off handwritten letters at the post office, each written with care and sealed with melted wax—the old-fashioned way. This is one of my favorite things to do.

Mine is the heart of “the girl back home.” The one that waits loyally, intently for her sailor to return from faraway foreign shores. Whose top closet shelf holds a plain shoebox, tied shut by a frayed string, filled with letters that traversed the seas and mountains to deliver the stories, dreams, hopes, fears, and longings of her beloved. And the “I love you, I miss you” that seals moonlight.

I’m the girl back home that grew into an old woman with a plain shoebox on her top closet shelf. Each signed simply “Yours”, the letters she held close for a lifetime never revealed the name of the man for whom she waited. Loyally.

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Gallery

Ten Years

Today marked my 10-year anniversary at Deloitte. I’ve experienced a lot of super-cool things in that time, but the one that has had the most enduring, meaningful impact on me personally occurred as part of my role in the US chairman’s office.

Over the course of nearly four years, I wrote announcements about retired partner deaths. You may think it’s weird or morbid, but it was a special honor to be the one that paid tribute to the lives of some remarkable people who helped make Deloitte the special place that it is today, and whose contributions helped shape the profession as we know it.

I wrote several hundred such tributes, and in the process, I interviewed hundreds of people about the impact their colleagues had on the lives of those around them, going as far back as the 1950s. Here are a few things I learned from people as they reflected on the lives of their colleagues at the times of their deaths:

How you treat your colleagues and clients in the course of your everyday work has a lasting impact on their lives. Your words and actions are received, felt, and remembered by others. More keenly than you expect, in fact.

The “little” things matter. Integrity matters. Private conversations stay with people, so invest in them wisely.

Work is one expression of humanity; it’s not business, it’s personal.

Technical skills are very important, but character is most important.

In my first ten years, I worked with rookies and sages; interns and CEOs; colleagues, clients, competitors, and the professional community at large; people in every part of the US, and every region of the world; the unknown and the famous; and every type of person along the many spectra of society. Deloitte is a special happening, and I am honored to be a Deloitte “colleague for life”.

(If you want to make my day, please share a memory of our working together at some point over the past decade. Through you, my family can come to understand my professional life better, and why I am so committed to the green dot. Thanks!)

Gallery

Foyer on 5th

There were no people on the sidewalk, no beggars on the steps; the antique, ornate metal doors budged as much as a stubborn ox at the plowing season’s dusk. I shut my right eye tight and leaned in close to peer inside through the small crack between the two monumental doors. Nothing, except a small flickering light deep in the distance, greeted my curious eye. I might have been able to slide a note between the doors on a single sheet of paper, but I could not press sight into the same space before darkness consumed it wholly. Stillness moved swiftly about on the other side of the doors, and made a ruckus of silence that easily spilled out through the narrow crack between those doors. The steps were sticky with silence and shadows, and I stood plainly in them. No one on the sidewalk. And no one else on the steps.

The tall entryway hung around me, like a high-flung blanket of thick folds of grey and white marble, the center of which got stuck on a nail high on the wall over the doors. I stood under the arching marble blanket in a soft glow of light that pressed the marble blanket away from my crown. I felt tiny and soft standing in the glowing marble archway, still and curious. The skins of the doors appeared to have been meticulously carved with mathematical precision, a visual orchestra of swirls, peaks, squares, and circles. They echoed a grand tale: “Once upon a time, through these doors, walked a king and commoners alike …”

Tonight, though, there was no king. No commoners. Street lamps cast a powdery mist into the calm night air, and I noticed a few passersby; they seemed not to see the doors, the marble entry, or me. A man with a dark blue suit and shiny black shoes walked briskly by, and glanced at his watch twice before crossing the narrow, two-lane street. He hurried by the steps upon which my shoes soaked in silence.

A young woman with drab blonde hair sauntered in the opposite direction, wearing a skirt that moved like the aurora borealis, and in colors the same. A brown bag slung over her shoulder, and she carried a book in the crook of her arm. She didn’t notice me noticing her approaching the tight intersection at 5th Avenue, which she crossed carelessly.

I turned again to the door, and touched the unyielding handles. Brass or gold, I couldn’t be sure. My senses begged for more of the story. Who were these commoners that crossed the threshold guarded by these grand doors? Why did they come here? Where were they now?

Just then, I heard a purring whisper from above, as if peace passed over the heartstrings of a poet, whose words needn’t find paper or tongue. And there, tucked in a small architectural crevice that gave rise to yet more marble, rested a lone, gray pigeon. From the breast of a peaceful messenger, the story began to unfold.

A pigeon is a common bird, with an uncommon gift. Her sooty wings give flight to messages of love and longing, of good news, and warnings of danger. It is in her commonness that she journeys—unnoticed—from one place to the next, stitching humanity together with threads the length of her travels. She is ordinary, but in her ordinariness, she tells extraordinary tales to those who listen. Unlike her elaborate, marble birdhouse, in which she tucked herself out of view from the street behind layers of ornate majesty, she cooed a quiet, unassuming greeting.

The important man with the shiny shoes hadn’t noticed me. The woman with the book walked by without even glancing up at the mountain of marble upon whose steps I waited. But a simple, ordinary pigeon welcomed me to her spectacular home from a foyer the size of a breadbox. She told me about how commoners come to these doors to hear messages of love because they long for acceptance. There are times when the doors swing wide open to share good news, and other times they are unlocked to calm the commoners’ fears, and soothe their pains. She made this her home because from her foyer, she could watch the common folks pass through the doors; their sooty stories and tarnished, hardened hearts made well by the extraordinary experience of being common … noticed and loved.

Far above the narrow streets and luminous streetlamps, the moon glistened. With my silence-soaked shoes and quenched curiosity, I descended the steps delicately and walked north on 5th Avenue, on the tiny island of Manhattan, where common is breathtaking, and awe is as common as a small, silvered bird.

Marble entryway