How Should We Respond in Tough Times? Lessons from my father…

This past week has been one of the more difficult weeks for all of us. I have reached out to my kids who live in other states much more than normal.  My wife and I are spending time together without the consumption of stuff or doing, but just to enjoy each other’s company. I’ve also found myself feeling a whole series of emotions as I help deal with customer issues that quickly evolve into personal conversations. 

It’s in times like this that you can’t help but feel vulnerable. If you know me personally, you might wonder how can that be because you think, “Mark you’re always so optimistic.”  Yes, I do view myself as an optimist. I owe it to my father for passing on that great quality.

Growing up, I saw him face significant challenges. My family did not view ourselves as poor, just economically gifted.  Over the years, I watched him handle that and his own major health issues with an amazing level of optimism.  Regardless of the bad news shared by his doctors or the pain it brought,  he never failed to see the bright side.

One particular time stands out to me as I fondly remember him and his life- he was recovering from another battle with cancer. Although his mobility going forward would be limited, he viewed it with great confidence.  He never viewed his limited mobility as an inconvenience; he saw it as something to master. Every physical setback, he viewed as an opportunity to find new ways to deal with the basics- ones you and I take for granted.  His outlook never wavered, he never once complained and most of all, he never once stopped going out of his way to help others. 

The impact my father had on others never ceased to amaze me. No matter what, he always had time for whoever was on the phone or whoever wanted to meet. His face always beamed with a smile even when his body was writhing in pain. Yes, as I look back, I believe that helping others was in his DNA; however, I firmly believe it was all about him not looking at his own situation.  This has taught me that the best way to respond in tough times is to reach out and help others.   

****The situation we find ourselves in is not permanent, if there’s one thing I’ve figured out, permanent is never permanent.   Just when we think things can’t or will not change they do.  Certainly none of us a few months thought we would be in the situation we’re in now, but we are.  I can’t change what is happening in the world but I can change how I respond to what is happening in the world.  I feel the greatest opportunities we will ever have lie ahead of us in the days, months and years to come.  My father never stopped moving forward, driven by his optimism and his faith.  I’m thankful I embrace his optimism and am also anchored by my faith.  It’s times like this when those assets are priceless. 

When your phone rings, or the email arrives with someone on the other end looking for assistance or just an ear to listen, make the time for them.  We are a community and we’re at our best when we take time to support one another.  The support we give others is not to be in exchange for something else, no, do it out of your love for the other person.   

Our greatest days lie ahead, sure there are challenges we will face, tough decisions to be made but life is full of detours.  I thank God I didn’t know this was about to happen, can you imagine how much more we would have all been stressed or how much more toilet paper we would have stockpiled?  Our best response is to relax, and to be there for the other person whoever it might be.  It might be a customer, it might be a peer, it might even be a competitor.  The business of business begins with people.   Life is people, life is community, we will get through this we always do.  Although none of us are old enough to remember World War II there were many dark days when it did not appear things would work out yet they did.  Out of WWII came the greatest period of economic growth the US has ever seen.  I believe the same will happen this time, not just for the US but for the world.  

My father whatever the challenge he faced never ran from it, he would run to it with gusto and excitement to always find a solution.  He was the master at finding alternative solutions.  Once when his doctor told him he was too weak to work he worked around it by sneaking out to his car to take naps during the day.  To him obstacles did not exist.  Obstacles were only an invitation to find a new solution.  It’s my duty to tackle each challenge in the same manner. 

This is our time to find solutions, not just for ourselves but for our customers, our co-workers and friends.  This is our time to be the person we have been called to be, a servant to others.   We all pray we never face a situation like this again but what we do know is if we should face one again we will do so with the experience of today in our thinking.  Life is good, it always has been and it always will be when we choose to make it not about ourselves but about helping others.  May we make each day one where are impacting others helping to make them stronger.