Be a People Lifter

People are frustrating, aren’t they? Seriously. Everywhere you go you have people distracting you, pulling you down, or are just flat disappointing. It could be at home, while you’re driving, at work or even just milling around a public place.

A few weeks ago I went grocery shopping. Normally, my wife and I go together because we enjoy it and we can knock it out. I don’t know what was in the air, but it seemed like every single person was just in the way. A few people were using their carts like a life support system dragging their feet along behind. Others were staring at their screens oblivious to any movement happening around them.

At the end of each aisle, I was hoping for either a stop sign or a traffic signal. Instead, people jerked suddenly as each person’s cart narrowly missed from slamming into each other. As I wandered down each aisle with my list in hand, I felt like I was trying to maneuver through an unreasonable obstacle course. There were folks just standing and lost in contemplation and others checking out each label with incredible concentration. I could feel the pulse in my neck rise to an unhealthy level because of how no one was considering others. I felt they were acting as if the only person in the store was them.

I’ll skip how I glared at the various checkout lines which added another layer of what I perceived as ineptitude. I finally paid, went to my car and zoomed home. As I slammed the bags of groceries on the kitchen island while unloading them, I regaled my story and experience to my wife (recovering from total knee surgery.) She was patient in letting me dump my bucket, but when I finished she innocently asked, “Do you know what those other people were thinking or going through?”

She was spot on. I was so perplexed why others who were “in my way” weren’t thinking about others without realizing how selfish I was being myself. Her simple question deflated my self-righteousness and reframed my head. You see we tend to look at and talk about people in 3rd person. EVERYONE else is frustrating (not me). EVERYONE is just an unnecessary obstacle to me getting real work done (not me). I think you see where this is going . . .

I’m ashamed I let the circumstances around me get me so worked up. Instead of enjoying being in a crowd of strangers trying to accomplish a common goal, I thought they were a nuisance. Sound familiar? If you step back and listen to the conversations happening at work, at home, or out in public, you’ll hear people tearing each other down versus lifting them up. It’s easier. It makes us “feel good” to be above others, but it is the worst thing we can do.

We live in a day and age where demeaning others is valued far more than encouraging others. I don’t know when this happened but it’s awful. We are fortunate to have others in our lives. We truly are. We’re also fortunate to be surrounded by talented and unique people at work. In order for us to stem the divisiveness that tries to overcome every conversation, stop, pause, breathe, and then – lift others up.

You can do this. You know when others lift you up it brings joy and a break from what you’re normally experiencing. Being a people lifter takes more effort, energy, and intention to act against the tide of how most people treat and view others. Trust me, I try to be a people lifter most of the time. It’s draining but worth it.

I needed my wife’s simple admonition and I’m grateful she broke through the ugly approach I had taken that day. I needed someone to show me how to “break with” so I could “break through.” This week let this post be the “break with” for you and those around you. It’s time to be a people lifter – so we all can rise !!

Opposites

My wife and I are almost completely opposite people. We’ve known this since the first time we met. It’s almost hard to quantify that we came together because I’m an extreme extrovert and she’s a rational introvert. We were volunteers with Young Friends of the Zoo at the Cincinnati Zoo. I came to one meeting and volunteered to chair the group’s annual fundraiser. It didn’t seem too out of reach. The other volunteers were both grateful someone stepped up and shocked that I would ask to lead after just attending one meeting.

I tried to meet every. single. person at each monthly meeting to get to know them and encourage them to join in to pull off the fundraiser – The Beastly Ball. It was a costume party that happened around Halloween each year. My future wife was so put off by my overtness, she walked around the perimeter of the meeting space to avoid me.

As volunteers, we met offsite at a warehouse to design, create and build the massive decorations and sets for the ball. We transformed an empty industrial space into an Egyptian tomb. One evening as I was walking around to each group of people to thank them for coming and pitching in, Debbie stopped me and asked me what I was doing over the weekend. I replied, “Nothing.” She quickly asked, “Want to do ‘nothing’ together?” I was so startled that she took this bold step, and I was intrigued. I said, “That would be great.” It was the best decision I’ve ever made over 36 years ago !! (BTW – Our first date was going to see the epic movie – The Princess Bride.)

Fast forward to the present day . . .

Just recently Debbie had a total knee replacement. Everything went well and she’s been recovering magnificently. As one who cherishes abiding by the rules and valuing structure, she’s the perfect patient. Now that things have been progressing, we took advice from our daughter who’s an Occupational Therapist to go mall walking. We’re also old enough now that mall walking isn’t out of the norm !!

Debbie went walking a few times during the day while I was at work. She asked me to start walking with her, and I needed to have a way to be more consistent in making sure I stayed healthy. I was geeked to join in. I went a few times on my own to get the feel for it.

The first time we went to the mall as a couple we entered through the set of double doors and were set to go – she started walking to the right and I went to the left. We took a few steps and paused. She said, “I like to go this way,” showing the path she had followed the few times she went without me. I explained that I was following the path I liked. We shrugged our shoulders and then commenced to walk in opposite directions. It fits us perfectly.

I share this because if we truly want to value diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging then we need to come to terms that none of us are the same. And, we shouldn’t be. It’s okay to be opposites and still be connected to each other on purpose. So, embrace your uniqueness and be cool with who you are AND who others are. It works !!

Check on Your Icicles !!

I have lived in Ohio for the majority of my life. I love that in this part of the Midwest, I get to experience all four seasons of the year. Each season has its pluses and minuses. I have to admit that I do love a good snow !! This past Friday afternoon a legit snowstorm took over for several hours. It was part of my commute home and I was able to get back and enjoy the flakes floating down from the sky. When it was over, we had 3 inches covering everything in a smooth white blanket.

I am one of the odd people who regularly yearns for more snow. I think it paints a beautiful landscape of Winter. I knew the picturesque scenery would be short-lived because Spring is doing its best to arrive and start the second season of the year. As the snow began its inevitable melt, the conditions were just right for icicles to form. I LOVE icicles !! They are a wonderful creation but they don’t always appear after every snow. So, when they occur I make sure to cherish them.

Icicles are fascinating because they form while melting. They cling precipitously off the edge of something or other. There is no rhyme or reason to how long or short they’ll be. Also, some just seem to build and build until they become a massively thick structure reaching down as far as they possibly can. As rarely as icicles form in our area during the winter, their time is limited as well. As the outside temperature rises, the icicle begins the end of its “life” by slowly dripping from its tip. You hope for it to melt completely, but more often than not, the icicle detaches from its edge and it rapidly freefalls to shatter on the ground below. As I’m writing this blog, there is a barrage of icicles falling and smashing on the back patio.

It’s a shame that they don’t stay around longer than they do. I understand that everything has its time and life cycle. However, they are so magnificent and make such a visual impact that it’s brighter when they’re around.

As I take a look at these dangling masterpieces, it makes me think of people. You’ll hear the term “well-being” being used more regularly these days in the workplace. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic for organizations to realize the well-being of our people has ALWAYS been something that deserved our focus and attention. Now, hang with me here (pun intended). I think many of our employees act just like icicles on a daily basis.

You don’t see them before they appear magically from the crowd. It’s just like icicles that emerge from the “crowd” of a fresh snowfall. Once they show up and are visible, you see them as the talented and unique people they’ve always been. What you don’t notice is they may be hanging on a ledge and you don’t even realize they are. On the outside, they glisten and are on display while also melting on the inside at the same time.

Most likely, our great people will detach and fall as well before they reach out. That shouldn’t happen. We should be in a position to not only enjoy them for all they bring to the company, but we should make sure they’re more anchored all the time so they don’t fall. Making sure we are intentional in knowing our people all. the. time. needs to be our baseline as HR pros. They should never be oversights that get in the way of our work.

People are looking for someone who will be there for them all the time and not just in times of crisis. Taking note of a person’s well-being is a full-time endeavor. The more we embrace this, the healthier people will be. Let’s turn the tide and take care of our icicles. Value them every day and give them the awe and attention they deserve. Then you’re sure to have them with you year-round.

The Future Workplace

This past week I had the incredible opportunity to speak to an auditorium filled with college students. I’ve become accustomed to speaking, but this time I was a bit anxious. You see, I’m almost 40 years older than all of the young students in the room. I wasn’t quite sure I’d connect with them. I was hopeful but it wasn’t a sure thing. Even though I’ve been speaking for several years in a variety of venues, I still have that tinge of uncertainty which I welcome. I never want to take it for granted or be so self-assured that I overlook the reason I speak – the audience.

The topic was fascinating because I was tagged to speak about the Future Workplace !! (Cue space music in the background.) I wanted to see where the mindset was of the students so I asked them using Slido.

(Quick aside – If you’ve never used Slido as a presenter, I highly recommend it because it allows full participation from the group you’re in front of anonymously. Check it out !!)

The kids pulled out their phones, clicked on the QR code, and started typing. I chose a WordCloud for them to populate. There were nearly two hundred responses and the top answers were: Money, Work-Life Balance and Flexibility. So, the newest folks who will be entering the workplace would like to get paid and not work all the time !! I agree that is a need even today.

Once I knew where they stood, I turned the tables on what they expected. Instead of lecturing to them about my decades of vast experience, I talked about topics to look for and expect in the workplace. The tone was more about encouraging them to be intentional and create the workplace of the future themselves. I didn’t want them to be subject to what others define for them. My generation did that and I felt that the majority of my career was filled with traditional boxes following a top/down approach.

The workplace of the future is going to be people-centric and people-first. Since the auditorium was filled with people, I shared that they had the foundation already sitting in front of them. We talked about culture, behavior, contribution, adding value, and more. The message I wanted to make sure stuck with them was this – Embrace all that they are as people and all that they’ll bring to the workplace from their vantage point. Also, I emphasized to NEVER let people from other generations put them down or degrade who they are or how they approach work.

I closed by encouraging them to connect with current businesspeople to establish mentors to be resources for them. Yes, I also told them they should network, but I wanted them to know that networking is a business skill and not a job-seeking skill. I kept with my style of having my accompanying office table filled with toys and even got some laughs despite our age difference.

At the end of the presentation, I was touched by how many students stayed to chat. Several of them said, “I didn’t know what to expect when I came tonight. I thought it might be dull and boring, but it was fun.” My favorite comment was, “I had a picture in my head of what an executive from a company looks like and sounds like. I was floored to see you dressed in a colorful shirt, fun shoes, and jeans. You were down-to-earth and authentic. You changed my perspective on what C-Suite people could be.”

It was reassuring and ironic at the same time. My nervous assumption about our significant age differences was unwarranted. We connected because of the common fact – we’re all humans. I think we should continue to focus on the human factor of the workplace now and into the future. The “things” like AI, HR Tech, new processes, and systems will always be evolving into something new. We’ll never fully be ahead of the curve and any predictions will have some things right and others will be missed.

I’m sure people will be speaking far more about the “things” of work instead of the humans. That’s a shame because the workplace of the future will include people. People frame the culture. People design the strategy. People make work come to life through the systems and processes.

I encourage all of us to embrace those who will make up the future workplace. It will be exciting to see what they do and what is invented next. Believing in them now and lifting them up is how WE can impact the future. We don’t have to keep focusing on the How and What is coming. We will be successful now and into the future for years to come if we focus on the Who !!

I’m geeked about the future. I can’t wait to see what all of those students will do. I hope you are geeked as well !!

Simple is Hard

This past week, I was fortunate to return to the speaking circuit for the first time in 2024. Whenever I get to speak to a group of my HR peers, my bucket is instantly filled. I never take it for granted. As soon as the obligatory speaker introduction ends, I can hit the first slide, and time seems to disappear.

I can feel the energy of the room ramp up when I introduce a few of the concepts I wanted to cover during my time. You see, I believe in and have practiced a stripped-down version of HR throughout my career. When I began practicing several decades ago, it wasn’t even called Human Resources it was Personnel. What was interesting was the old name of the field was a more accurate description of how most of the work was done. It was impersonal distant and heavily process-driven.

People are probably reading this and screaming that little has changed. That may be true in pockets or in companies that don’t value HR. I hate to hear that. I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me after presentations sharing that they are faced with roles that still value the Personnel approach. Interestingly enough, there is this constant push to rename and rebrand the profession yet again. Instead of focusing on doing good work with people, we’re worried about what we’re called as an industry. I really am not concerned with what HR is or isn’t called as long as we try something that works.

Great HR is best when it is simplified. When we strip back the layers of the muck that have been built in over the years we make true progress. We thought our purpose had been to continue to build system upon system, process upon process, and policy upon policy. The more we wrote and implemented, we assured ourselves that our work and relationships with people would go smoothly. We have tricked ourselves into believing that we can have the perfect model with a set number of prescriptive steps to refer to for any situation we face.

There are still speakers, books, blogs, and podcasts that propose this ineffective and archaic belief system. Isn’t it ironic that if we only needed one true system then there wouldn’t be the need for any others? Have you stepped back to consider that?

Simplifying HR is needed because people are complicated. Each individual on this planet is unique. They can’t be, and shouldn’t be, crammed into a box of any sort in order to comply and conform. But, as Martin Scorcese so aptly stated, “Simple is hard.” You think it would be just the opposite. However, creating more and more and more layers of do’s and don’ts (mainly don’ts if we were honest) is easy. Having the discipline to keep things simple and not allow the layer building to occur takes considerably more effort.

The key to understanding here though is this – Keeping HR simple allows you and your employees to thrive. You have to trust me that you unleash more of the inherent talent people want to bring to work if you focus on allowing them to perform. How that looks where you work is up to you.

This is the baseline message of almost every talk I give. I’m out to deconstruct the past in order to build up the profession. Pulling the layers back and eliminating them reveals amazing people who have been there all the time. We just haven’t seen them because we’ve been lulled to sleep doing work building matrixes.

This week find one thing to strip back. Just one. The next week find two to three more and so on. Have faith and know that simplified HR can work for you. Taking these steps will be far more impactful than building the next great initiative. Enable the people you have working at your company to perform. You’ll find when you do this, they will.

Put Your Spin On It !!

I love those painting places where you can go and have someone teach you to paint a picture. Everyone in the class starts with the same blank canvas. The instructor stands in the front of the room and shows you what a finished product could look like.

Instructions are given and everyone hears the same things. However, once a brush dips in the paint and is applied to the canvas, something happens. Not one person does it like another person. Not one. Why is that? They all heard the same instruction and they all viewed the same picture. Wouldn’t it make sense that you’d see a room full of identical pictures? Logically, it would but creativity isn’t logical.

That doesn’t dissuade anyone from taking the class. In fact, everyone loves taking a peek at everyone else’s canvas to see how they interpreted the painting. They are unique – just like each person. There wasn’t any hope of any two canvases turning out to be alike.

(These are two of my interpretations . . .)

Now, compare this to the workplace. I was talking virtually with a friend from the UK and we were lamenting the ongoing insistence of companies copying other companies. We call it “best practices.” There are countless speakers and consultants who encourage you to adopt best practices in order to be more successful. They have good intentions, but best practices don’t work. And, if we’re honest, they’re behind.

We shouldn’t be mimics trying to recreate the culture, procedures, or approaches of other companies. Can we learn from them? Absolutely. Have they accomplished impressive things? You bet. Do you work for exactly the same company with the exact make-up of employees and have the same resources they do? No. No, you do not. Since that is our reality, why do we think we can recreate how those companies do work?

I’d like to propose a different approach with two components for you to consider. The first is this – Know that your workplace is your own blank canvas. You can see the painting someone else did before you on an easel. Start painting what YOU see. Whatever the outcome is be good with it. It’s your creation. You learned from the best practices that are exhibited on the easel and you added your own touch.

At my workplace, we call this LaRosaifying something. We look externally to see how others do things well because you can learn from good work. Taking pieces from these practices and molding them to fit how we do work with our talented people is very successful. We won’t ever be (insert name of well-known company here) and we don’t want to be.

Secondly, create the “next practice” instead of trying to replicate the work of others. You are creative !! You may not think so, or you may not think you have time in your full day to be creative, but that’s just not true. Every good idea had to start somewhere. Why not from where you work? The best practices we’ve been talking about were created somewhere by someone else. Why can’t your idea be something that inspires others?

We sell ourselves short far too often. We are consumed with production and results which keep our heads down. We don’t see the paint, brushes, and canvas just waiting to be used. If we’d be willing to pause, breathe, and lift our heads up from the day-to-day, we’d see countless canvases waiting for us to add our creations to them.

This week stop the mimicry, pick up your brush, and start painting. Put your spin on the good work you do. You’ll be surprised by the masterpiece that is just waiting to be completed.

Be a Care Partner

Throughout life, you are sure to encounter various challenges. We don’t desire that but you have to be realistic. Life wouldn’t be life without challenges. This past week, my wife and I started to face our most recent one.

I mention my wife often in my writing because I am so fortunate to have her in my life. As a couple, we balance each other. I tend to be outspoken, gregarious, eager to meet strangers, and someone who questions rules. She is stable, thoughtful, enjoys rules and structure, and warms up to people after meeting them a few times. There are other facets of our personalities that you could categorize as opposite – and that works for us.

She has always been supportive of my drive to be creative and always on the go just in case I can meet someone new. If I were someone who chose to spend their life with me, I’d wonder at times what I signed up for. On the other hand, she brings order and peace, which is incredibly attractive !! So, when she had knee replacement surgery last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to take care of her once again.

I say “again” because, in the past, she’s had extensive foot surgery, two shoulder surgeries, and now a knee. She’s decided to become bionic which is keeping her healthy and will give us more years to do life together. (One quick note, I read every blog I write to her before I publish it. She knows the topic and we aren’t breaking any HIPAA privacy rules.) Everything went smoothly and was successful. I was amazed that something so major is now an outpatient procedure !!

We came home and got her set up to start the road to recovery. I am there to assist her with actions she normally would do on her own. When I mentioned that Debbie was going to have surgery in my men’s group, I said, “I get to be her caregiver.” One of my friends corrected me. He said, “Be a care partner because you’re in this together.” That truly struck me.

Being a care partner is such a different perspective because it’s not one-sided and reminds you that more than one person is involved. This doesn’t lessen the challenge you both face, but it gives you more confidence that you can be a team to work through it together. It’s only been a few days into recuperation, but we’ve been taking the care partner approach and it’s made a huge difference.

While Debbie has been resting, I had time to contemplate. As a “partner,” you find yourself focused on others which runs contrary to what the world expects. We’re taught to be fiercely independent and stand on our own. However, I believe we are wired to be present and empathetic to others – always. This is true when you’re given the chance to care for a spouse, a partner, a parent, a child, a friend, a relative, and even a stranger.

You can be someone who chooses to care instead of being someone who chooses to avoid or deflect. We really don’t know what’s going on in the lives of the people we work with. Rarely do people take the time to be that open or vulnerable. I’m not calling for people to be more open, but I am encouraging you to be more mindful that EVERYONE you encounter has some form of “life” going on at every moment.

Acknowledging this will change your approach and lead you to be more caring and empathetic. In fact, it’s needed if you want to lead effectively. Self-centeredness only ends up tearing people apart. I’ve tried to be someone who models empathy and care at home, at work and everywhere I’ve been connected to other people. I was fortunate to see this modeled by my parents and extended family. It’s what I’ve known and what I hope to show and see in others.

This week look around to see where you can become a care partner. The opportunities are there. Step in, lend a hand, and see how those relationships grow and move forward !!

The Art of Giving

This is a time of year when people feel the urge to give to others. I love that this is the case !! I know that the holidays aren’t only about gift-giving. Trust me. At the same time, I appreciate any time people pause to think of others. If the holidays provide an environment for people to be more selfless and less focused on themselves, then I’m in.

I enjoy shopping for my wife because I am so grateful for her and it’s fun to get her something that matters from her wish list. She has traditionally taken care of our kids and does an amazing job. She is always equitable in who gets what and is also thoughtful. Our kids (adults) are older now, so there is less quantity and far more meaningful quality. In fact, my kids have adopted the practice of only getting me gifts that make me weepy. It’s a fairly low threshold, but it’s something I cherish.

At work, we traditionally do food drives, coat drives and pick a charity to support families with felt needs. We give our employees an opportunity to chip in, but there isn’t an expectation of mandatory participation. Inevitably, the giving is overflowing, and the amount of donations is humbling and overwhelming. You hear a general hum of positivity fill the hallways more this time of year and there is less grousing about the challenges of work.

Our exec group has had a practice of giving each other gifts which started years ago. We spend so much time together throughout each year and it’s a cool way to let your co-workers know they’re on your heart. A few people give the same things annually and it’s fun knowing these treats are coming. This past week, however, I was taken aback by two gifts I received.

Quick explanation . . .

I am a GIANT fan of all things Ted Lasso. I love the show and feel it may be the best HR show ever made without directly being about HR. In the show, Ted makes biscuits for his boss every day. So, to get a package of Ted Lasso sayings, a towel with the recipe for the biscuits, AND actual biscuits to try was so wonderful !! (NOTE: The biscuits are sooooooooo delicious. I would recommend you make some yourself. I plan to !!)

The other gift was a print filled with a montage of items from my hometown of Ada, Ohio. If you know me at all, you know that being from Ada means the world to me. I spent the most formative years of school there, and it will always be a place I will be connected to throughout my life.

I wanted you to have more of an explanation of these gifts because they reflect the art of what giving can do. Giving causes us to pause and think of others on purpose. It stops the pattern people have of primarily thinking about themselves and their needs first and foremost. Giving also shows your heart and opens you to be more vulnerable and open with people.

The art of giving should be a pattern of our lives year-round. We are all surrounded by people who have needs. Most need to be given the gift of time and acknowledgment. You can let them know they matter in who they are and what they contribute. Others may want the gift of attention. A time when they receive your entire focus without distraction. No phones, laptops, or screens. You are “there” when they are there.

You will also come across those who may be facing challenges, trials, or periods of a larger need. See how you can step in. You may have resources yourself or you can connect them with others who can lend a hand.

It’s imperative we all learn, and embrace the art of giving. Imagine how our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and the world would look if we did !!

Community Builds Community

This past week something very cool happened. A young man posted a question on Linked In asking whether one should be an HR generalist or an HR specialist. It caught my attention because he was kind enough to pull a quote from my book – HR on Purpose !!

I wanted to make sure to respond. This wasn’t because he quoted my book. I try to look at the posts of my peers and do my best to acknowledge them and respond. I think we misconstrue social media as only a series of highlights, and we miss that people want to have conversations. I reached out to Shomari and offered to have a real chat on the phone or virtually. He was kind enough to agree to this when something magical occurred. Other peers who commented on his original post wanted to come together and be included in our call as well.

We set a date and a time which was a bit of a challenge because we live in three different time zones. Through the wonderful world of technology, we made it happen. Shomari had put together a list of preparatory questions he wanted to make sure to cover. Four of us were on a Zoom call and the hour we spent together was wonderful. Several opinions were shared along with much laughter. In fact, one person on the call said she loved that we laughed because she said she doesn’t do this nearly enough as she should. That warmed my heart.

The key takeaway from the four of us convening was not the content or approaches we discussed. Instead, it was something truly revealing. The three others who joined me expressed how much they valued getting together and talking to their peers. Building the foundations of a community between peers was the wonderful outcome. That too warmed my heart. Anytime I see the light come on when peers understand how much better work and life is by having a community, I’m filled with joy. Literally.

I had spent the first several years alone as an HR practitioner. I kept my head down and didn’t even think about peers who also practiced HR. I never reached out to others and others didn’t reach out to me. It didn’t make work fun by any means. Once my eyes were open to connect with others, my career took off personally and professionally. After I saw the benefits of having my own community, I was compelled to make sure that others became connected as well.

Despite my best efforts to date, I find that a significant portion of HR professionals remain isolated. I don’t understand it but I’m not defeated in the least. I’m encouraged that opportunities like the one from last week will continue to present themselves. When they do, I plan to fully jump in. What I’d love to see though, is for others to do the same.

We’re a stronger and more relevant profession when we’re intentionally connected. Many of the social media platforms which brought many of us together years ago are evolving or deteriorating which is pushing people back into the shadows. We can’t allow this to occur !! I know many others who are also community builders around the globe. They continue to do amazing work, and they’re doing all they can to make sure communities are growing and remain sustainable.

I heard the phrase – Community Builds Community – this week, and it is absolutely true.

As we head into 2024, please join in. Know that if you’re in HR then I consider you as part of my community already. Since you’re already “connected,” then take the next step to reach out to others, and let’s make more of this activity occur. It will make a difference to people personally and it will help our companies grow and thrive !! Community builds community.

BTW – Shomari is staying in touch with the three of us and figuring out how we can keep talking and networking. I’m geeked to be included and we’ll see where his efforts go.

The Sun Still Rises

This Thanksgiving my wife, mother, and I visited my brother Mark in Knoxville, Tennessee. My sister-in-law Kathi’s parents also joined in as well as my three nephews and their families. It was a joy to be able to hang out together for a few days.

My brother and I have always been close. We are both tall, have a boisterous laugh, and we love being together. I cherished it when we lived closer to each other because we would make time to see one another. The moment we embraced this past week, it instantly melted the distance and miles away. It was just a few minutes before we started cracking up with laughter.

My brother has been very successful personally and professionally. I’ve always been proud of all he’s accomplished. As many similarities as we have, there is one difference that stands out. I’ve lived in the same house with my immediate family since 1991. My brother has not. His jobs have taken him all over the Midwest and the South. Most recently, he left the confines of suburbia to move to the country and land on a sprawling 10-acre plot.

It’s a wonderful piece of land that has boundaries of trees around three sides. You can wander for hours and hours in the woods and get lost in your thoughts. He and Kathi were intentional in clearing the land to have an unobstructed view of the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. It’s truly breathtaking. One of the daily highlights of this view is how the sunrise occurs.

I made sure to wake up early every day to go out to the back porch to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, read my Bible, and practice my German. The additional benefit was that I was greeted by the sun rising magnificently over the mountains. The light first started by changing the hue of the sky. Brilliant colors shot across the horizon, and it’s as if a switch was then flipped on as the sun broke over the mountains in the distance.

I took pictures each morning so I could capture what I saw, and refer to them after I left. I wanted the reminder because I think we need to remember the sun still rises every day.

Too often, we are consumed with every possible distraction that frames our basic day. We get buried by so many things we forget to look up. We miss the awe of what a sunrise brings. How would your day go if the first thing you did was have your breath taken away? I think it would be drastically better !!

We also have an opportunity to be a sunrise for others. If they missed the light breaking over the horizon, then we could provide that spark that breaks through any darkness or despair threatening to swallow them. We can’t afford to forget the daily sunrise. We just can’t.

This week pause before rushing out the door or heading to your laptop. You have the time. You truly do. Start the day looking up toward the horizon. Take a deep breath and start your day with awe. It’s worth the time to remember the sun still rises.