As we come to the end of the year and look forward to 2014, we asked Charlee Hanna, blogger, website manager, organization guru and white-water rafter, to write a guest blog for you following our theme for this month — gifts and celebrations. We hope you find it as meaningful as we did…
I have had a very blessed life with many different experiences. I have had the privilege of living the extremes of life and very rarely in the middle. Because of the range of experience I have also had the privilege of knowing a great variety of people. Some have hard-calloused hands and dirt under their fingernails while others have literally saved the world and brought world peace. Some have very few possessions and others are rich and famous. Most of them try hard to give more than they take.
Greg is a close friend of mine. I do not see him much but I think of his story often. He grew up in the 50’s, with a father that was always out of work and a mother who connived constantly in order to keep the family going. There were other hardships in his childhood and he developed a debilitating stutter. The family moved often and his life was very unstable, unstructured, and with few rewards. His late teens and twenties often included a state penal system address. Not a great beginning. There was a marriage, some children, a variety of unskilled jobs, and a divorce. Life was a struggle.
At some point Greg started gong to church. For many people church is not a blessing, but for Greg it became a great blessing. Blessings are those extra things, we get and give that make life a little better. Church gave Greg a new focus on life. Sometimes a blessing is just a smile or a rainbow, but blessings always add joy. Greg found steady work at the same address he had been a guest at some years before. He became a prison guard. His stuttering was still a major handicap, but he had a big heart and that served him well. Even though the environment was rough, the inmates responded well to Greg and he rarely had problems on his shift. Greg was able to retire from that job and developed a small landscaping service. Many customers were snowbirds and would leave their home in Greg’s care for the winter. They knew they could trust him to solve any problems that would arise in their absence. He always took good care of their homes and undercharged them for his services. He was precisely honest, gave great amounts of time to his church, took care of the widows in his neighborhood, and was always looking for ways to aid those less fortunate. He had married a wonderful woman and they added several foster children to their combined household.
Greg recently had an accident that laid him up for 6 months. His new boss kept his job open for him because of his reliability. When I called to check up on his progress, he was so happy. After undergoing the months of very little income, much pain, and slow rehab, he then spoke with such gratitude about his life and all that he had. He spent the next thirty minutes recounting all of the positives, laughing and telling me stories.
Gratitude is remembering all of the good things. At this time of year the constant barrage of advertisements could make many of us remember how little we have and how much more we really want. It reminds me of the phrase from the movie, “What About Bob?,” when Bob begs to get his way: “Gimme, gimme, gimme me! I need, I need, I need!” What a waste of time and effort.
When we remember all that we do have, it causes our brain to process each event again. This causes those happy endorphins to be released and strengthens the electrical connections in our brains to the event. At this season I am grateful for many things and one of them is my friendship with a great example, a person who has overcome many challenges and shares a bit of joy with so many others.
Charlee Hanna works with her husband David to help organizations align, survive and thrive despite constant market fluctuations. At Organization Survival Playbook, they focus on organizational design, strategy, partnerships, change and transformation. In addition to their work with organizations, they host a website of insightful and pragmatic measures submitted by well-known experts and little-known practitioners. Charlee also enjoys white-water rafting and she teaches leadership through that experience. You can follow Charlee on Twitter at @CharleeHanna and Linkedin.