A Tradition that Cemented a Friendship – and a Listening Movement

A Tradition that Cemented a Friendship – and a Listening Movement


Our goal each year is to get the two big leather club chairs directly in front of the massive stone fireplace.  As we’ve written about many times before, it’s our annual tradition to spend several hours a few days before Christmas, in the Iberian Lounge, in the dimly-lit, beautifully-decorated room, at the Hotel Hershey, in Hershey Pennsylvania – the hotel that Milton S. Hershey had designed and built in 1933 during the Great Depression.  The visionary and benevolent candy-making magnate whose hard work and perseverance created the most famous chocolate company in the United States, and that has grown in fame and popularity around the world.  The Hotel is one of the architectural and social jewels in his crown, overlooking the chocolate factory he built, as well as HersheyPark, the always-growing amusement park he created, the magnificent Hershey gardens, the Milton Hershey School for children he and his wife Catherine endowed because they were unable to have children of their own, the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the Medical College connected with it, and the town that bears his name.  

We’ve only missed one year at the Hotel in the 12 years we’ve observed this tradition.  That missed year was two years ago, when COVID had closed the Hotel.  But in order not to drop this tradition, we went to a local bed and breakfast, whose owners we know, for lunch and an afternoon in front of its fireplace, taking our own food and drinks with us.  One other year, we had to sit in the Hotel atrium, which is beautiful in its own right, because a private Christmas party was going on in the Iberian Lounge the day we went there.  Two years we didn’t get the two big chairs right in front of the fireplace, because others beat us to them.  But every other year, we have snagged a spot in right in front of the blazing fire to toast the holiday with the Hotel’s signature chocolate martinis, to reflect on the year gone by in our personal and collective Someone To Tell It To lives, to share our visions for the year ahead personally and professionally, and to open the gifts we got each other for Christmas.  

The gifts are almost always symbolic of our common values and enjoyments – books we want to read by noted  authors, tickets to places we’d like to visit together, items of clothing and accessories that we can use in our common love of running, gifts that will make our lives more enjoyable in a variety of special ways.  

We truly look forward to this get-together every year.  It is a favorite highlight of every year.  We work hard throughout the year, and the relaxed, intimate hours we share quietly together – as we approach the favorite holiday for each of us – is a day we commit to every year.  It’s sacred, deeply meaningful, and definitely has been the catalyst for us founding Someone To Tell It To together.  It was the year before we created Someone To Tell It To when we first went to the Hotel to celebrate Christmas together.  That first time definitively cemented our friendship and the very open conversation we had that year about our lives led to this current decade-long path we’ve traveled together.

During the holiday season of 2019 when we were there and before before the pandemic entered and upended all of our lives, just after opening our gifts, a man came over to us and asked,  

“Are you Tom and Michael?”  

“Yes, we are.”

“You might not remember me, but I’ve seen you speak several times, at …”, and he went on to remind us where he had seen us.  He told us he had read our books and really liked them.  

“I remember reading about your tradition of coming here to the Hotel at Christmastime, and when I saw you in front of the fireplace from across the room, I thought that was you.  You really do this, don’t you?  That story and tradition are true!  It’s so good to see you here!  I’m here with my wife and I simply wanted to come over to say ‘Hello’ and to wish you a Merry Christmas!”

We were touched to see him, to know that he read our books and remembered the stories, especially this one, which is so special and meaningful – sacred – to us.  

Yesterday, the first Sunday in August was Friendship Day.  

Numerous studies have found an association between placing a high value on our friendships and having better health, well-being and happiness as a result. 

Our friendship – and modeling its depth, the vulnerability we express, the values connected to empathy, compassion, and the gift of emotional intimacy we share – are foundational to Someone To Tell It To’s creation, its decade-long development and growth, and to the vision we have to live in a world that will be far better at listening than it is now.

Friendship – every relationship, actually – is first built on listening to one another – 

Listening with intention.  

Listening not simply to respond or judge or fix, but to know others and to be known by others.  

Listening to connect on deeper levels with others, to alleviate the epidemic proportions of loneliness so many of us feel around the world. 

Listening to validate what others are experiencing and feeling.

Listening to break down the barriers that keep us from better and healthier relationships in our lives.  

That’s what this movement we helped to create through Someone To Tell It To is all about – helping the world to listen, to create better friendships that drive the darkness of loneliness and disconnection away.


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