Monday, December 23rd, 2019 | 8 min read
Finding Time to Drive Santa’s U-Haul
“How am I going to swing this?” I wondered, looking from my text messages to my calendar. The plan I had in my head wasn’t going to work – I needed to find time to take PTO on the last Friday before Christmas week to make donation pick-ups for a local holiday drive my family has been involved with for years. The organizers needed all donations several days earlier, to allow enough time for sorting and pre-Christmas distribution to the recipient families.
I have a new work schedule since joining Sprinklr as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary in September. Monday through Thursday I’m in Sprinklr’s NYC HQ. On Fridays, I work from my family’s home about 20 minutes outside of Boston. Overall, the weekly travel hasn’t been as challenging as I’d expected. The 3.5 hour train rides twice a week fly by, as I use the time for concerted inbox attention.
The Friday morning school shuttle duty that my 12-year-old daughter, Syl, required as a condition of my new job has been a real pleasure. And my wife, Melissa, has been incredibly supportive of this exciting career move.
But, being away four days a week limits opportunities to do things like drive “Santa’s U-Haul” in unavoidable ways.
Clicking through my calendar, I wondered how my new colleagues at Sprinklr would react to me delaying my weekly commute, taking Monday off to take care of the holiday drive. At just that moment, in one of those wonderful examples of serendipity that cannot help but give even the most cynical among us pause, an email from Diane Adams, Sprinklr’s head of Culture and Talent, hit my inbox.
24-4-U and 24 for Others
I already knew about Sprinklr’s 24-4-U program—a learning and development program that encourages Sprinklrites at all levels to take a paid day away from work for self-improvement (a class, a seminar, online learning, a speaking engagement, etc).
“24 for Others,” Diane’s email explained, is a bookend program designed to create space in Sprinklrites’ busy lives to give back. It’s a paid day off, focused on encouraging employees to volunteer.
I’m not certain I was the very first Sprinklrite to act on Diane’s email, but I probably was. I immediately booked a 9 foot U-Haul cargo van and started shooting out text messages to arrange the collections. Oh, and I texted my Melissa to make sure Syl could take that Monday off of school to be my “elf.”
The Holiday Dreams Foundation is a wonderfully simple concept, started by two of my childhood friends in my hometown of Holliston, MA. In many ways it functions like a traditional toy drive, with one really special wrinkle. Families in the greater Boston area going through a challenging time submit wish lists completed by their kids. Donors “adopt” kids to buy gifts for, and the program organizers give the gifts to the parents, along with plenty of wrapping supplies, so that parents can wrap the gifts and deliver them to their kids.
Participating in the Holiday Dreams program has been a key tool for my wife and me to teach our daughter to appreciate how fortunate she is, and understand the value of giving to others. Watching her understanding of the program and of the spirit of the holiday season grow and mature over the years has enhanced Christmas for us immeasurably.
So on a very appropriately chilly morning this December 16th, my daughter and I donned our elf hats, jumped into the U-Haul and packed it with gifts for deserving kids.
Here are just a few things I learned during my “24 for Others” day:
1. I’m incredibly fortunate to have “work families.” For the last five years prior to this one I have sponsored the Holiday Dreams program at athenahealth, as a senior executive. Each year, a little voice in the back of my head asked, naturally, whether some of the many participants were taking part because they felt obligated… because I was, after all, their boss. That question was unanswerable until this year when, as a now former “athenista” with exactly zero influence or authority, I got to greet just as many of those wonderful people as they lined up in the frigid parking lot to drop off their gifts and catch up on the months that have passed since my departure.
On the Sprinklr end of things, not only was my participation this year facilitated by that email from Diane and the formal program it described, but, more importantly, not a single one of my colleagues at our very busy company so much as furrowed a brow at my “day off.” On the contrary, many went out of their way to tell me how great they thought it was. Sprinklr isn’t a company that just gives back on paper. This kind of thing is in our DNA.
2. My little girl “gets it.” This year we bought gifts for six kids, all siblings, ranging in age from two to 15. Watching Syl sort the gifts into piles and check them against the wish lists was fascinating. She built a mental profile of each kid, assigning them personalities based on her own friends and experiences, empathetically speculating about their lives, personalities, and interests based on their lists, and asking me questions about them as though I had a basis to answer. Part way through the day, I overheard her telling one of my friends how much she looks forward to this day every year, and how much she enjoys doing it with her dad. And then, the hit to the gut (in a good way!), “I spend more time with my dad now that he’s away part of the week.”
3. There really shouldn’t be a distinction between “24 for You” and “24 for Others.” Sure, Syl and I spent that Monday doing something good for an incredible organization. But while we did that, we spent quality time together. We saw friends we hadn’t seen for a long time, and shared the experience of giving with them. We listened to Christmas carols and ‘car-danced’ to Mariah. We got a super-strength injection of the holiday spirit that will enhance our own celebrations in the days to come.
In truth, my “24 for Others” was also my “24 for You.”
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