I was a newbie at the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) a few years ago when I approached Ms. Alberta Paul because she reminded me of women leaders I had seen, worked with, or read about before. I asked Ms. Paul to be my mentor. She gave me a plant instead, knowing that’s what I needed most at that time.
“I feel that plants help people spiritually,” she would explain later. “They have a calming effect, and they engage people in an activity called caring. For your plant to survive you have to take care of them.”
Had she given the plant to me during a time of new-job anxiety to remind me that I was capable of taking care of myself – and someone or something else, too?
“Think about when I gave you the plant,” she said. “You were new and we wanted you to feel welcomed.”
It worked. I settled into my space, watched my plant grow wild and beautiful as it dug in roots and sprouted new leaves.
Ms. Paul, a formidable and fervent public servant, has given more than twenty plants to others at DDOT in her twelve years there. A communications specialist and logistical support manager for DDOT’s chief engineer, she stays busy, too busy for idle chat. So, she hands off a pretty plant and keeps it moving. Not everyone gets the same kind of plant though. It depends on what she is grooming at the time she feels compelled to give.
“I am creating new plants from ones I’ve had for years,” Ms. Paul said. “Whichever ones have good, strong, healthy roots at the time I’m ready to re-pot, are the ones I give.”
I received a heart-leaf Philodendron from Ms. Paul. I rooted stems from the plant she gave me, and gifted three new plants to my friends at DDOT as I prepared to leave for a new career opportunity at the Government Publishing Office a couple weeks ago. I am taking my gifted plant with me to my new job. Maybe I will find easy friendship with fellow plant enthusiasts there. Certainly, I will give from this plant to new friends there.
Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.