Have yourself a…

a toy duck wearing a wool sweater and hat

…wonderful holiday? …Merry Christmas?  Joyous Kwanzaa? …Happy New Year?

Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, I invite you to join me in extending heartfelt greetings to our families and friends, those with whom we work and those whom we serve.

I am mindful that my “Merry Christmas” might not evoke in others memories similar to my own, of childhood delights and family time. And I try to be especially aware of others this time of year by respecting their experiences and traditions.

In that spirit, I encouraged you last year to commit yourself, at least once in the next year, to learn of the traditions of one of your colleagues—this will extend our holiday greetings year round!

So, what did you learn?

Personally, I made it a point to learn about NLM’s people and divisions located off the main NIH campus, whether in Bethesda, Rockville, or Virginia. (Meeting those of you working from afar or on alternative schedules are next year’s challenge!)

On one recent off-campus visit, I spent time with the Extramural Programs (EP) Division, which administers our grants program, including the university-based biomedical informatics and data science research training programs.

They are a dedicated and creative bunch. Not only do they manage an annual budget of almost $75 million and reviewin conjunction with expert panelsover 900 grant proposals each year, they can also seriously decorate for the holidays.

When I visited a few weeks ago, their office hallways were alight with bright Christmas greeting. The artful application of crepe paper, construction paper, and shiny ribbons gave me the sense of walking past a row of Christmas trees, though I’m sure the pine scent was all in my mind.

But these are grants folks. Competition is in their blood. So many of EP’s 19 staff have turned holiday decor into sport, with a race to see whose decorations go up first and, of course, which are the most attractive. That’s a debate I’m staying out of, but I do appreciate how it adds to the sense of celebration and festivity in the workplace and what it tells me about them, their camaraderie, spirit, and good humor.

So, what did you learn this year? Did you discover an colleague who celebrates Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights? Did you sit down to a Passover seder or break the Yom Kippur fast with someone? Or did you learn about a co-worker’s non-religious traditions, like a family reunion, an annual camping trip, or their favorite Thanksgiving dishes?

Such moments, when we step outside work talk and learn about each other, help forge positive connections and mutual respect, which, ultimately, are true hallmarks of the season.

Wishing you all good things, and may a sense of connection, richness, and celebration stay with you through the coming year!

Author: Patti Brennan

Director, US National Library of Medicine