Letter from the President – December 2023

by Collette Leland, Winston & Cashatt, Lawyers
EWI of Spokane Chapter President

My favorite holiday story is The Gift of the Magi. This is the tale of a young couple who each sell their most prized possession, so that they could give the other the perfect Christmas gift. Della sells her glorious cascade of hair to buy Jim a platinum chain for his grandfather’s gold pocket watch; and Jim sells his watch to buy tortoise shell combs for Della’s hair. From the opening line of “One dollar and eighty-seven cents“ to the moment when O. Henry tells us “these foolish children” gave the wisest of gifts, I am entranced by this classic tale of selflessness.

Such stories are standard fare each holiday season. George Bailey discovers that a lifetime of sacrificing his own dreams for the well-being of others makes for a wonderful life. Ebenezer Scrooge learns that a life focused on self has left him in spiritual and social poverty. The Grinch hears the people in Whoville singing and his heart grows ten sizes. John McClane foils an international ring of thieves at Nakatomi Plaza. . . . Okay, maybe not that last one. Even compared to the lost dreams of George Bailey, the sacrifices of Jim and Della are so very personal—her hair, his watch—only to end in “waste.” Yet, it is that wastefulness that O. Henry uses to illustrate their true gifts to each other: their self-sacrificial love.

While pondering the wisdom of the Magi this month, I’m also working my way through The Soul of Civility by Alexandra Hudson. Hudson characterizes our current trend toward incivility as self-love run amok. According to Hudson, civility—as opposed to politeness—is an attitude of respect for the innate dignity of other persons. More than good manners, it is living out the golden rule. Though it does not require the unbounded self-sacrifice of Della and Jim, it does require an attitude of graciousness toward those around us. As I fight off holiday stress and end-of-year deadlines, this is a good reminder for me: extending kindness and civility to people is more important than completing my to-do list.

Nevertheless, I do have a short list for our Chapter. Each year, our December meeting brings each of us an opportunity for selfless giving. It does not require us to cut off our hair or sell an heirloom. We need only pick up a gift card or bring some cash to donate to our most recent ASIST winner. This year we are donating gifts to Mwape Mumba, and her family. Mwape is enrolled at EWU, where she is studying to be an English Language Learner teacher. It was a joy to hear her speak in May at our Scholarship banquet and to see her with her young family. I am grateful to the Philanthropy Committee for providing another opportunity for us to celebrate with Mwape. Please, remember to bring cash or a gift card with you to our holiday celebration at Northern Quest.

Please also come prepared to celebrate with one another, especially with our newer members and guests. Our R&R Committee has been doing an amazing job bringing new folks to our EWI party. Now, it’s our turn to show them why they should stay. At LCAM this year, our incoming corporate president, Charlie Rosenquist, shared how she met Jill Gaffney and Sue Fleming at one of her first EWI corporate events. She was feeling shy and awkward, but Jill and Sue pulled her out of her shell and made her feel welcome and part of the group. Their act of kindness and civility made an impact on Charlie. As we celebrate the holidays together next week, let’s follow Jill and Sue’s example by making a point to reach out to someone new. I can’t guarantee that they will end up as our Corporate President one day, but you will make their holiday a little bit brighter.