On some ordinary Thursday in the middle of a time of peace, it might not be a bad idea to take stock of who your allies are, in this journey of life. An ever-changing coterie of good souls who show kindness and fairness when nobody is noticing, and when everybody is, it does our hearts good to know that we have a few real allies among the people who cross our path. That’s good, because sometimes we need them. Normally reasonable co-workers can become “frenemies” when times are tough and the anxiety level rises. Members of the book club can be ambiguous in their welcome. Optimistically, they can be preoccupied with promoting their own concerns. Realistically, they may opt for a little backstabbing. We all need people who watch our back. Who can you count on?
Allies in the workplace, as in our other social circles, do small supportive things that give comfort, when we have been wounded by an unfair criticism or a snub; if they are not brave enough to speak up for us, they may alert us to danger, or offer a beer and an independent, and warmer, view. Allies are generous in small ways. I recently saw an episode of “Chopped,” a fierce competition on the Food Network, in which one chef was unfamiliar with an ingredient, and his competitor interrupted cooking to offer a brief word of explanation. The human relationship counted for something; the moment touched me. Allies want each other to succeed, and show by their actions that they believe your success and good image, is not at their own expense. Allies fight fair.
Benevolence can happen in chance moments between strangers, who become allies in scooping up the contents of a spilled briefcase. Ally relationships can be fleeting, but can still make a critical difference. Being an ally does not make someone your friend, necessarily, but a fellow traveler whose path has joined with yours for a time, with shared wellwishing. Appreciating our allies and potential allies is a good discipline, not just in case we may need them next week; gratitude for allies is a way of honoring something good in the universe. Reciprocate their kindness because it’s an expression of who you are, not just because it’s prudent. Do it long before some passive aggressive soul sabotages your project, or the boyfriend strands you, or your computer freezes with a deadline dead ahead. Notice the independent thinkers, the ones who have their own personal style, the ones who quietly make the first pot of coffee in the morning. On a bad day, when we feel momentarily alone in the universe, it is good to remember who one’s allies are. It is helpful in strengthening us, as we prepare to right what is wrong in the startlingly adversarial corners of our lives.