Bringing Food to Meetings

A recent rule shift at my school has caused me to think about one of my old habits — bringing food to meetings.

We’re not serving food at meetings for at least the first few months of school. This protocol is in response to whatever wave of COVID we’re currently managing. At first I thought, “great, this will save me some time and a good chunk of my budget.” But then I realized that buying food for meetings is an important part of my leadership behavior.

My days at work, like yours I’d imagine, fly by. No matter how slowly or quickly I work, no matter how attentive or head-in-clouds I am task-to-task, the sand flies through the hourglass of each school day. I look up and the students are already spilling out of the building, kicking soccer balls or tossing footballs, dancing across stages, piling into buses. My trips to the grocery store in advance of meetings, occasional as they were, offered me a guaranteed opportunity to lift my head in the midst of whatever day was rushing past, and to gain some perspective. These trips, which took about a half hour, were mini-leadership meditations focused on people.

When shopping for a meeting, I would always think first about the expected attendees. Would Tom — gluten free — be there? Would Mike — dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate — be there? Any vegetarians? Any foodies who might be intrigued by something unique? Any coffee fanatics?

Thinking about the particular tastes and needs of the people on each team is something I enjoy. Feeding people as a form of service is how I was raised; it’s a love language I learned on Sundays in my grandmother’s kitchen in her duplex in Jersey City. And, helpfully for all kinds of reasons, planning to feed people in meetings may have been the primary time during the week that I really thought about each individual on a team. Sometimes thinking about what someone liked to eat reminded me that their mom was still sick. Sometimes other memories surfaced, things to celebrate or just check on.

The bottom line (of this post) is that I won’t be practicing this particular leadership meditation for a while. And now that I’ve thought about what I’m losing — instead of my first thought about what I was gaining — I need to figure out a way to force an interruption, to throw a spanner into my work day every once in a while, to help me think about the people around me, the ones who so often go into the extra innings (i.e., meetings) that make all the difference for our school.

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