Greetings. The Navajo have a remarkable way of welcoming a new child into life. By holding a “First Laugh Ceremony.” According to Navajo tradition, a baby is considered to be part of two worlds…the world of the holy people and the world of the earth people. From the moment of its birth family and friends watch over the child waiting eagerly to hear its first laugh which is viewed as a sign that the baby wants to join his or her earth family and the broader community. It is also believed that the baby will take on the qualities of the person (or persons) who witnessed its first laugh. A first laugh that also gives the witness the honor of preparing a ceremony to welcome the child into the community.
At the “First Laugh Ceremony” guests bring plates of warm food to pass in front of the baby and the baby, with help, sprinkles salt on the food as a first sign of the start of a life of generosity and sharing. And many people believe that the salt is also intended to nurture the goodness in everyone who receives it.
It is a simple and powerful ritual that got me thinking about how we welcome new employees to our companies and organizations, new and prospective customers to our businesses, new students to our schools, new neighbors to our communities, and even new immigrants to our shores. Typically with a bit of hope and even more suspicion. And rarely with a laugh that quickly tells them that we regard them as a vital member of our collective enterprise.
And why not? Why wouldn’t we want to cut beneath all of the seriousness of life to incite and then share the gift of laughter? Why wouldn’t we want to get at the heart of one of the most powerful and positive human emotions to more quickly reach a deeper level of appreciation, acceptance, and connection with the strangers among us? And why wouldn’t we want to invite the person (or persons) who saw or sparked the first laugh to have the privilege of more fully engaging each new employee, colleague, classmate, or neighborhood into the life of our “community?”
The power of a laugh might be our greatest tool in efforts to build greater engagement, collaboration, and meaning in work and the rest of our lives.
All of us, and all of our companies, organizations, communities, and nations need a steady influx of new people, ideas, energy, and possibilities. It’s the way we learn, grow, and reach our full potential. But we need a way to break down the barriers that divide us right from the start in order to begin long and meaningful relationships.
A nation of native people in the American southwest with a wonderful lesson to share. No doubt one of many insights in their rich past and present that we could all learn from if we were open to the possibility.
We win in business and in life when we are open to learning from strangers who are different than us. And when we never forget the simple power of laughter and the best of what it means to be human.