Last evening, I was the lead chef catering a wedding reception. This elaborate, special occasion took a team of twelve to execute. It was hot, physically challenging, and amazingly gratifying. The gratification was not the result of the work or the successful production but rather the company of the women who surrounded me.
We were an all-woman team, varied in age, ethnicity, and life experience. Still, we pulled together as we collaborated and cooperated in a way that I found unique and heartwarming. And I was not alone. That sentiment was echoed by many as we thanked each other and hugged before parting.
So, what makes for this experience? I spent time this morning reflecting on that question and have come to some conclusions.
Trust plays a part. I’ve met each of these women at least once before, worked with some on other occasions, and have history with each of them—some brief and limited to only a part of my life, some on a deeper level.
We know each other and genuinely care about each other. There is a connection beyond our jobs.
While we work, we spend time talking about our lives, sharing on a deeper level beyond the work at hand. We work hard and fast, focusing on what needs to happen when we are busy, but as it slows down, we talk. I know a little something about each of them, and they know me.
Shared interest weaves its way through the work we do together, as well. We are each more than a cook or a server. We have rich interests and passions. What we do together is how we support ourselves, but it is only one part of our life and an aspect of who we are.
One of the women found me organizing the walk-in refrigerator at the end of the night and excitedly announced she had sold her first painting. We had talked briefly at the last party about how she paints, and I write. She was proud to share her accomplishment with someone she knew would appreciate the deep pride that comes with being validated by a sale. I knew and shared her joy. We embraced, and I told her I was proud of her. She knew I meant it. I was proud of a woman who does what she needs to do to pay her bills while never giving up on what comes from her heart. Making time for artful expression, giving it wings, and sending it off to the world. It was an intimate moment, experienced in an unexpected place, but it held us in true connection.
Above all else, we respect and appreciate our differences and admire each other for our accomplishments.
We know we’ve all had our share of what life dishes up that is bitter and tough to swallow. I may not have immigrated to this country or faced cultural challenges, discrimination, and limited opportunity. But I can empathize and support social justice. They may not know yet what it’s like to live in an aging body while working long hours under challenging conditions, but they can support me while I do.
We all have a story and a struggle, addiction, broken hearts and marriages, lack of opportunity, gender bias, racism, financial hardship. None of us is entitled or privileged, and no one acts as if they are. We are hardworking, determined, and powerful in our own right, and together we are even more.
Last night, we proved it. We lifted together, helped wherever we were needed, stepped up, and held each other up as the night wore on. We giggled, gave thanks, talked candidly, and brought out the best in ourselves and each other.
It was one of those nights that makes me proud to be a woman.