Michelle Simakis

I don’t like to make a big deal about my birthday. When a friend or sibling forgets to contact me that day, I don’t get upset. Their texts, calls and cards are very much appreciated, but not expected. (Note: None of this applies to my husband.)

I was having this conversation with a coworker who feels the same way. “But,” I admitted, “I love getting a card from Ted.”

Ted Schuld is not my husband. He’s not my brother or my best friend. He’s my coworker, but we work on different publications in different departments. We don’t see each other much anymore since our company has grown. Still, he makes sure that every November, I get a personalized card. It’s not just a “Happy birthday! Have a great day,” or some other generic sentiment, which I would still be very grateful for. This year, he researched fun facts before composing my card. I share a birthday with “some very random celebrities,” he wrote, like Billy Graham and “Dylan” from “Modern Family,” and he noted a couple historical events that happen to coincide with my birthday.

He not only remembered, but he took time to put some context to my day of birth, and it made me feel special. But I’m not unique. My colleagues and I all had our own theories about who received a special note from Ted and who didn’t. I found out recently that he delivers a card to everyone in the company, which is now about 100 people.

Each year, I thank him. Each year, my colleagues and I regret not reciprocating his kindness — somehow, we always forget his birthday. This year, I decided to ask him how and why he does it.

Our company calendar lists birthdays. He simply takes the time to look at it. Everybody loves their birthday, he says. They don’t admit it, but they do. It’s important to him to have relationships with his coworkers, and the way he’s cultivated these bonds is by celebrating birthdays.

Ted’s card is not expected, and I wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t get one. Perhaps that’s why it’s even more meaningful. He doesn’t have to do this for me or anyone else in our office, but he does, and it brings us joy.

As the year winds down, we often reflect on who and what we’re grateful for, and what we can do better next year. How can you show your coworkers that you care, and not just during the holidays? Is there something small but meaningful you can do consistently?

This month’s cover story (page 16) profiles three husband-and-wife teams who own IGCs, and examines the delicate balance they have to achieve to separate life at home and work. But it’s also important to remember that we’re all human, and sometimes, we need to know we’re appreciated, whether we’re family or colleagues. And often, our coworkers become our family.

Maybe you could be like Ted, and start with something as simple but thoughtful as a birthday card. I finally jotted his birthday down in my calendar so that in 2018, I won’t forget.

Michelle Simakis