Skip to main content
Mary Lynn Fayoumi

The Most Precious Gift

By Mary Lynn Fayoumi, CAE, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, President & CEO
Published May 14, 2024

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to the local fabric store with my mom and younger sister to select patterns and fabrics. Mom learned to sew from her own mother, who raised twelve children on an Iowa farm as a young widow. For her, sewing wasn’t the hobby it is for many today. It was a necessary life skill.

As an elementary school teacher, my mom didn’t have time to handmake our entire wardrobe, but she did enjoy making special outfits for her daughters. The three of us would spend hours in the fabric store paging through thick pattern books, choosing designs, and carefully considering the abundance of fabrics and notions (buttons, rickrack, etc.) that mom needed to create our new dress or top. 

Remembering my mom deep in concentration while her Singer sewing machine whirred away still brings a smile to my face. I was always proud of her talent and loved wearing the unique pieces she made, especially those in seersucker and dotted Swiss that I played a role in designing. 

I’ve been reflecting more than usual on my mom this May because she would have turned 90 on Mother’s Day. Although she hasn’t been on earth to celebrate with us for the past quarter century, the lessons she taught during her lifetime resonate more clearly than ever. 

As the late author and poet, Maya Angelou, said, “I’ve learned that people forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.”

Even though I vividly recall browsing through the JC Penny catalog and dog-earing pages that included items I was hoping to be allowed to order, the receipt of these purchases was far less impactful. Not because I didn’t like the department store clothes; in fact, as I think back, it was never really about the clothes at all. It was the time spent with my mom that was the real gift. 

In a recent article titled, “When Our Give Meets Our Get,” Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry, a global organizational consulting firm, discusses some of the gifts that leaders can give others. On the top of his list is the gift of time. Given it’s in limited supply, how you choose to spend it truly matters. As a leader, it is vital to share your vision, experience, talents, expectations, insights, and feedback with others. Making yourself available and being present to actively listen and engage is important. 

When spending time with others, Gary also recommends providing recognition and offering encouragement. There are loads of effective ways to recognize people and some of the best ways are free. A personal, heartfelt thank-you goes a long way. 

When things aren’t going so well, taking time to provide words of counsel, support, empathy, compassion, or encouragement have an immediate and lasting impact. If stopping by someone’s desk is no longer an option, why not pick up the phone instead of sending an email or text. Almost always, the ROI will justify the effort.

If you’re not satisfied with how you’re currently allocating your limited time, there is no time like the present to make some intentional modifications. You and others will be glad you did. 

This article, authored by Mary Lynn, was written for publication in the Daily Herald.