Please bear with me a bit, this one’s personal.
A couple that I know – a great couple – fun, bright, attractive and successful when I knew them in my younger years, before I moved away, recently experienced a tragedy. It made me think long and hard about Thanksgiving. Its meaning. Its essence of our culture and mindset and how we look at life in the USA.
I didn’t know, but my friends who were so dynamic and endearing before, who had a reputation for helping people out – often anonymously, because it was the right thing to do – fell on difficult times. They had health problems, employment challenges, were cheated in big business deals, and had children with disabilities. Yet, they persevered. They always worked to help people, take care of their children, and kept working at it …
… until it became too much for the wife and she ended her life.
It is a shock, a sad life experience, and one that leads one to examine the basis for what keeps us going. To imagine her in this position, especially from afar as I was, is unthinkable. And there is my life lesson that I hope to share herein.
In our daily course of work or social life, we encounter people all the time, at different phases of their life, with different daily experiences. Do our reactions to their behavior take into account the framework of their current life experience? Do we “seek first to understand, then to be understood”?
This is hard work, very difficult and challenging. It requires the ultimate in character, leadership and judgment. It requires love, love of people with whom we are not well acquainted. And it can often be in direct contrast to business interests. As I said, this is hard work and work that demands special attention and dedication.
I believe that a “correct response to an employee in distress” is almost an oxymoron, as a key component of the distress is the challenge that the employee has with talking about or sharing their distress. It is hard work that requires specialized expertise that we should never not access. This is something I do not have an answer for.
So what is my point in all of this?
Next week is Thanksgiving, and the connection between this tragedy and the spirit of this holiday is striking. Everyone has various problems in their life and those problems are either apparent, or totally hidden. The problem is that those whose problems are hidden have a distinct problem – everyone thinks everything is okay … Is it?
My takeaway – we all have problems and disappointments – some have greater ones. Perhaps they are not great in general, but for whatever reason, they lack the ability to deal with it, making it greater. So do not underestimate what is driving someone, but search for it.
Finally, if you are part of the fortunate majority who have the capacity for dealing with the problems life brings you, be thankful. Hug your loved ones. Pray for those less fortunate. And do something to move humanity a bit further along. We’re blessed for the most part.
More than most of us will ever realize.
MD RIP – thanks for the light you shone.
“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
“To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.”
“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson