This past Thanksgiving was a great time (and the recipes in the last blog entry really were winners—especially the Cranberry Fruit Conserve and the Sweet Potato Puree with Bananas and Buttered Pecans). However this past Thanksgiving also taught me a great lesson that I’d like to pass on.
One of the people who was with us this year was one of my cousins who’s going through the dissolution of his marriage. But what marked me so much was that every day he was with us, he received several phones calls from several of his closest friends—every day. Why? Because even though they were all scattered around the country for Thanksgiving, they knew that this was his first Thanksgiving without his nuclear family. So, every day they just called to see how he was doing. Needless to say, I was quite impressed.
As many of you know, this past June I ran into a board coup and decided that the best course of action was to leave quietly and to not create a fight or division is the church that I had started and loved. Over the first month or so, I was flooded with calls and e-mails. But just like with a death in the family, life goes on and most people went back to their regular schedules (which they should). Since that time, whenever, I meet someone from my former church, they are almost always extremely gracious. I typically get greeted with, "We miss you so much. It’s not the same without you. We really respect how you’ve handled this. Etc." And I thoroughly appreciate it. But what marked me so much last week is that I don’t have anyone in my life (outside of my family) who calls me every week (let alone every day) to see how I’m doing.
Note: This is not their fault. It’s all mine. The reason my cousin had his friends calling him (and these were all high-powered busy people) was because he had invested in those relationships for years. So that when his time of need arrived, it was just natural for his friends to be there for him. In my case, I had invest most of my time in building a thing (a church) for the past sixteen years. But things can’t love us back. They can’t call us or comfort us. And they can’t be there for us in our time of need. Only people can do that.
So, I’m starting with a fresh slate and a new perspective this week. For years when I’ve written out my goals, my wife has always laughed when she saw my goal lists. I can come up with fifty professional goals and only one relational goal (outside of family), which she knows is there only because I feel obligated to put at least one obligatory goal under the "Relationship" goal area. But this year, and last week, taught me a valuable life lesson (which many of you already know, but some don’t) that at the end of the day, it’s all about relationships—which is a great lesson for those of us who are classic Type A, driven, obsessive-compulsive leaders who want to build great businesses and organizations.
Now, in case you’re somewhat relational-phobic like me, I’m not talking about having fifty or a hundred of these relationships, just a handful of close friends with whom we’ve cultivated the kind of relationship where it would be natural for them to pick up the phone and call us everyday to check in with us during a time of need. Churches, businesses, arts centers, legislatures, schools, universities, non-profits, etc. are all important—but none of them can be there for us when our world turns upside down. And it does turn upside down for all of us at some point in our lives. Of course, the problem is, that’s not the time we build the relationships we need to get us through those experiences. The time to build those relationships is now . . . long before the storm strikes.
P.S. In case you’re somewhat cynical like me, this is not s subtle ploy to manipulate people to get back in contact with me. I’m doing great and am excited about starting up a new business. At my core, I’m an entrepreneur so I love starting businesses from scratch. It’s who I am. This was more of an admission of something I’ve known I needed to do but never got around to doing and finally got the motivation to do it.