Well, aren’t these crazy times? It might be the biggest understatement I could start with. In my lifetime, this is, of course, the largest threat we’ve ever faced as a country. An unseen airborne enemy that is potentially lethal. It’s unbelievable.
As a kid, I lived with a lot of fear. My dad was a large guy who easily got angry and was really loud. My brothers and I lived at a certain level of fear in our house every day. In many ways, fear has defined me.
I grew up during the Cold War. As a nation, we were afraid of the communists and nuclear war. We were taught to believe there was evil in the world and we had an enemy called communism. That fear kept me limited in my mind. It wasn’t until 2006 when I went to China to coach basketball camps for disabled Chinese kids that I saw the humanity in the people I had feared for so long. I was terrified to go, but I knew in my spirit, I was being called. I remember praying out loud with the children and the missionaries who lived in China while we were in the gymnasium of a government school and being so worried that the soldiers nearby would intervene. They didn’t! On the last day, hundreds of Chinese children cheered us and celebrated us as if we were some kind of stars or heroes. Their outpouring of love just wrecked me that day. It still does.
Living in the Midwest during the 60s and 70s, tornado drills were a regular occurrence. Devastating storms often came through in the spring. Every time I heard the siren, I remember deep fear grabbing me.
Then there is 9/11; a date we know all too well. We will never forget the trauma and terror that came after the attack on our homeland and the thousands of people who were hurt and lost their lives. Life in the United States has been forever changed and an uneasiness that lingers.
I remember beginning a new life in 2010 after going through a divorce. Fear owned me and was so disabling. I was so afraid to do life on my own without my life partner at that time. I didn’t believe I had what it took. I was so unsure of myself as I was looking to start a new life. I was trying to grow the Options business and we were just getting the PASRS group off the ground. I had no confidence in myself. I depended upon my closest friends and family to speak truth to me, so I could put the fear I had in its place and step into all these new places I was headed. One of those voices was my wife, Stacey. Her belief in me had so much to do with me recovering my confidence and moving forward. She came into my life right in the middle of all of it. Had I let fear win, I wouldn’t have the family that I have today nor the experience of the last five years with her. I didn’t want a small life.
I bring all these things up from my life to confront what I think is the biggest threat that we face. I just finished watching a 13 episode part series on World War II and I heard those words spoken by Franklin Roosevelt after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor when he said “the only thing to fear is fear itself. “ I watched videos of Winston Churchill walk down the streets of London each day after Nazi Germany had bombed his city to show the people the way. In no way do I want to be melodramatic, but I want to remind us all of what is true. There have always been, and always will be, outside threats to our way of life. We have to take proper precautions and in most cases incorporate new behaviors in order to help keep us safe in the future. But seniors and families still need our help. Our senior living operators still need our partnership. Our referral partners still need our services for their clients. We will incorporate some new behaviors and adapt, but we will still do what we’ve done for seventeen years and that’s to go the extra mile for the people that need our help.
The conveyor belt of life is still moving people and they have significant needs that require supportive living. This COVID-19 is a much bigger deal than I ever thought when it was first discussed. Clearly, as a nation, we underestimated the enemy and the mitigating factors that would make this so hard. However, I’m proud of our community and the way we have responded. I’m proud of my industry and I’m proud of my Options team. It’s during times like this that brings out the best in people. You see more acts of generosity and some of the best innovation comes out of these crises. The way through this is to do what we’re doing and keep our eyes open and up with hopefulness. Not in a Pollyanna way, but with deep inner confidence that we’re going to be OK. Our businesses will pick up again once the crisis is behind us and we will adapt to the new things that will come post COVID-19.
One of the most defining moments in my life was coming home from China having faced my childhood fears, being true to myself which then opened the door to being loved by hundreds that truly appreciated the journey my partners and I made to meet them and love them. I would’ve missed one of life’s greatest gifts if I had let fear keep me from that date with that part of my purpose.
Options would’ve never grown beyond me and there would be no PASRS or NPRA because fear would’ve kept my impact small. Even though deep in my heart I wanted to have a larger impact in this world, fear wanted to take that from me and rob me of my purpose.
Let’s not allow fear to keep us from our purpose as a people or a company. From the entire Options team and I, we are here to carry out our purpose and be there for families and our industry partners. I truly believe the best is yet to come! Stay safe and healthy!