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Light-Bulb Moment or Wake-Up Call?

With all due respect to Father Gary, the greatest lesson I learned last Sunday had nothing to do with his well-crafted homily. And you don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate this story and gain a good insight or two.

Last Sunday at Mass, my buddy John stood up to share the first reading. John is a former U.S. bankruptcy judge. Even when he's not reading, he is always impeccably dressed and otherwise on point. Last Sunday was no exception.

In his crisp khaki pants and navy sport jacket, John walked up at the appointed time, bowed reverently before the altar, took his place at the lectern, and adjusted the microphone.

And that's when things got awkward.

Now even if you’ve never read at church, you’ve probably had your own version of this experience: You stand before a large crowd of people, you look down at the passage you're supposed to read, and you realize it's not there. My old professor Dr. J calls these situations "psychological fire drills."

So you flip the page of the book in front of you. No luck. Undaunted, you keep on flipping. Nothing. In John’s case, you flip pages forward and backward, your eyes scanning to no avail.

The priest starts to squirm, but the people are fine. Quiet. Patient. Respectful. Maybe silently praying.

Finally in desperation, a man rushes up to John and politely shoves a missalette into his hand (in case you're not familiar, a missalette is a small book with all the readings).

John receives the book gratefully and opens it up. And starts flipping.

By now the congregation has burst out laughing, myself included. I can't remember the last time any of us have laughed this hard at Mass. For one thing, we’re all relieved this is happening to John and not us.

In the time it's taking him to find the first reading, you could have had brunch.

For a brief, memorable moment, the laughter continues. John is still scanning the pages but his puzzled look has morphed into an ear-to-ear smile. It is clear we are all in on this joke together—and that's when it hits me:

This church I joined last year, almost by accident, was a place where it's okay not to be perfect. Mistakes are allowed, people are celebrated, and when there is a mishap, you live to laugh about it with a few hundred of your closest friends.

A light goes on ...

If laughter and acceptance add value to the one hour of the week spent in worship, how much more should we look for these traits in the workplace. For many of us, work consumes more time than any other waking activity.

Don't settle for an environment where you have to walk on eggshells. Life is too short, the work hours are too long, and your time is too precious. And I'm not one to use the word "precious."

But if your workplace doesn't allow you to take risks, have an occasional off day, laugh, cry, or otherwise be human, you may have some discerning to do. Are you being called to stay and change your environment—or move somewhere else before the environment changes you?

Special thanks to John H. for letting me share this story.

Don't settle for an environment where you have to walk on eggshells.

Gina DeLapa

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Gina DeLapa is America's Ultimate Reminders® Coach, a sought-after speaker, and the proud creator of the Ultimate Reminders® book series. Her wise and witty reminders ("Beware the organization whose response to a burning building is to form a committee") will make you laugh, stir your soul, and inspire your best. If you're not already getting her free Monday-Morning Pep Talk, be sure to sign up now at