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Give Thanks

There is far too little praise and appreciation in most work environments.

Even those who are good about giving positive feedback can tend to reserve it for “above and beyond” moments. Yet, the routine work that people are expected to do every day often goes unnoticed and under-appreciated.

Genuine gratitude goes a long way in engaging people and binding them together. So…

Once a week, say thank you to an employee.

Don’t only focus on the extra mile they may have gone, but on the ordinary things they do to make your team, unit, or company hum. Be specific: explain the behavior or task that you are grateful for and the positive impact it has on you and the company.

The Nod

I run. And when I take my 4-mile trek around the outskirts of a local golf course very early in the morning, I do so against the tide of about 50 cyclists. These are serious riders and they’re doing about 25 laps a day…so I get to see a lot of them over the course of 30 minutes.

For about a year now, I’ve made it a practice of giving a quick head nod as the riders go by. They’re coming towards me at about 50 MPH so I’ve rationalized that they just can’t see me very well at such a high rate of speed – and that’s why no one has ever nodded back.

This morning that all changed. The lead cyclist was approaching and I gave my customary nod for the gazillionth time. And then it happened. He nodded back. Then most of the riders trailing behind him nodded. And finally, as the last rider in line started his sprint to close the gap behind the person in front of him, he raised two fingers ever-so-slightly off the handlebars and shot me a peace sign…along with a nod.

I had arrived!

I had to earn those nods – at least that’s how I’m choosing to see it. I had to make almost a hundred trips around that golf course at 5AM on weekdays for many months to get that nod of acceptance, of validation, of acknowledgment for my efforts. I run for me and my health, not for anyone else…

But we all need a nod every once in a while, don’t we?

Or maybe, by pure coincidence, they just happened to notice me for the first time today and when the leader gave me my props, everyone else decided to follow suit (which is an entirely separate topic for a great post in the future – stay tuned for that). Whatever. Either way, I finished my last quarter-mile today with a huge, peaceful grin; which hasn’t always been easy to muster up at the end of a tiring run.

So…who can you give a nod to today? Who has earned your respect with their demonstration of resilience, perseverance and determination? Who do you see going that extra mile?

Today – amidst the hustle and bustle of your busy, fast-paced schedule – notice someone going by you who has consistently exceeded your expectations.

Give ‘em a nod. Flash ‘em the peace sign.

They’ll appreciate it.

 

Time As A Means to Happiness

Forget Suze Orman. Time, not money, is your most precious resource. So spend it wisely.

Powerful research from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business …

“Our search to understand what makes humans happy (or happier) goes back centuries. As does our enduring belief that if we just do the right thing, happiness will follow — that additional happiness Blackjack Online will be doled out to us because we earned it, not due to the largess of a benevolent being. ‘Happiness is not a reward — it is a consequence,’ instructs Robert Green Ingersoll, a Civil War-era orator. Many notable others, from Aristotle to the Buddha to Ursula K. LeGuin, agree with this sentiment.

Read more here.

Give ‘Til It Hurts (By BJ Gallagher)

Fellow 8′ers,

While I have a seemingly endless trove of entries to post here on the Live the 8 blog, I was moved today to share this wonderful piece a good friend of mine, BJ Gallagher, just wrote for the Huffington Post. BJ lives the 8; and she knows what it means to do what matters. Read it…learn it…live it…and give ’til it hurts!

———————————————–

Give ‘Til It Hurts
By: BJ Gallagher
Posted: 06/13/11 01:51 PM ET @ http://huff.to/mCFQqH

Reverend Ed Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, stood in his pulpit, resplendent in his flowing white robe and colorful vestments. He’s a big man with a booming voice and charisma enough to light up the sanctuary without candles. On this particular Sunday, he was practically glowing with joy — energized by his guest of honor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Prize-winning peacemaker from South Africa.

“Most people say, ‘Give ’til it hurts,’” Reverend Ed announced to the standing-room-only congregation. “But I say, ‘Give ’til it feels good!’”

The crowd’s laughter and applause thundered their approval. The choir burst into song as ushers made their way down the aisles with collection baskets.

This wasn’t just any Sunday — and it wasn’t just any collection. Archbishop Tutu had come to All Saints to tell us about the latest developments in his homeland. Apartheid had been abolished and the country was now embarking on the long, slow, painful journey of healing. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had been established to facilitate the healing process. It was a court-like body, chaired by Archbishop Tutu, which played a key role in the transition of South Africa to a full and free democracy. Anyone who felt that he or she had been a victim of apartheid’s violence could come forward and be heard. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty and forgiveness.

But, as Reverend Ed pointed out to us that Sunday morning, justice isn’t free. It costs money to hold tribunals, to handle the paperwork, to underwrite the process of hearings and all the administrative details. So he asked the congregation to dig deep into our pockets and purses, since he was giving all the donations that Sunday to Archbishop Tutu to help support the ongoing work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“I’ve never done this before,” Reverend Ed said, “But I’m going to do Viagra 100mg it today. I am urging to give what you can, in whatever form you can. If you want to donate your car, we’ll take the pink slip. If you want to donate jewelry, we’ll take that. If you want to give cash or a check, or even put your donation on a credit card, fine. We’ll take it all. We here in Southern California have a wonderful standard of living — we’re rich by any standard. So I’m asking you to give as much as you can to the people of South Africa to support their healing and reconciliation. Most people say, ‘Give ’til it hurts’ — but I say, ‘Give ’til it feels good!’”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. We were so moved by Tutu’s sermon, so inspired by his moral authority and loving compassion, that we could do no less than give our all.

As the collection basket made its way toward me, I wondered what to do. My business had been slow, so I had no extra money to give. I needed my car, so I couldn’t donate that. What can I give? I asked myself. I desperately wanted to support this marvelous process unfolding in South Africa. I wanted to contribute something — no matter how small — to the good people half-way around the world.

The collection basket finally came to me and I looked down into it, still not sure what to do. As my hands cradled the basket of love offerings, I noticed that I was wearing a 14K gold and garnet ring my mother had given me on my 12th birthday. Instantly, I knew what to do. I took off the ring, put it in the little white offering envelope, and dropped the envelope into the collection basket. Tears of joy streamed down my face as I passed the basket to the person next to me. I imagined the South Africans melting down my gold ring to help pay for their national healing. I was filled with gratitude and happiness to be a tiny part of something so momentous, so important, so essential to humanity.

As I wiped away my tears and joined the choir in song, I realized that Reverend Ed had been right. I gave … and it felt good.

BJ Gallagher’s new book is If God Is Your Co-Pilot, Switch Seats (Hampton Roads).

Organizational Rehab: A 12-Step Program for Dysfunctional Companies

Many people have emailed me about a blog entry I posted back in December, 2010. It seems that the insight I shared, describing many organizations I’ve worked with (and for) as being “addicted” – hooked on self-centered policies and practices that mirror an active drug addict’s destructive behaviors; really resonated with a lot of people.

One on hand, I feel a sense of humility and deep gratitude for the positive feedback I’ve received on this topic. Equally profound (and surprising, even to me) is the enormous number of emails, phone calls, Facebook posts and Twitter DM’s I’ve received over the last three months from employees around the world. Messages from many, many people whose personal and professional lives have become unmanageable as they struggle to cope with life inside an addictive organization.

To those readers, and to you as first-time visitors to the Live the 8 Blog, I offer you hope in the steps that follow. Because there is hope for you and the organization you work for, just as the possibility exists everyday for the thousands of addicts that will find a new way to live a happy, healthy and productive life free from their drugs/behaviors of choice.

Here are my 12 Steps to Organizational Recovery.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our dysfunctional behaviors, and that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that only WE could restore our organization and our people to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to stop doing things just because we’ve always done them that way.
  4. We made a searching and fearless assessment of all of the policies and practices we did well, and the things we needed to improve.
  5. We admitted to ourselves, and to each other, the destructive behaviors that we had to surrender.
  6. We prepared our organization for how tough it was going to be to stop destroying our company, and the employees and customers we said we loved.
  7. We asked every one of our employees for forgiveness.
  8. We made a list of all of our team members, and made amends to them by getting to know them individually, and learning about their strengths.
  9. We redefined people’s roles and responsibilities around their unique talents.
  10. We continued to take an organizational inventory every quarter, and where we had relapsed into dysfunctional behavior, we promptly admitted it.
  11. We established new processes to continually measure success, and recognized those team members that were exceeding the company’s expectations.
  12. Having had an awakening as a result of this cultural transformation, we tried to live our new healthy, happy, productive behaviors daily, and to practice our guiding principles in all that we did.

To continue to do my part, I’ll revisit this topic often throughout 2011. In the meantime, share your story with me at david@livethe8.com. Whether it’s passing along your own experience (in organizational addiction or recovery) or posing questions related to this topic, I’m obligated to be of service to you and always happy to help.

Oh…and FYI:

This version of the twelve steps is an adaptation of the original twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which can be found here.

Shift Can Happen

Several times since my book came out, people have come up to me with copies of The 8 for signing. “My [boss, wife, sister, colleague] doesn’t understand what matters to me,” some have said, “So I’m going to give them your book.”

“Thanks,” I have replied a few times … although I feel a little squirrely about signing books for people who don’t necessarily want them. I’ve invented a specific dedication for these copies, though:

“To John: I’m not sure you’ll like my book, but your coworker isn’t crazy.”

“John” could have been “Mom and Dad” or someone’s business partner or brother or manager at work, who sincerely cares about the people around them, but sometimes (he said with a real positive spin on it…) cares a little too much to let them have their own happy, healthy, productive life. Sometimes the generational gap is reversed, and it is the kids who worry about their parents. Sometimes coworkers are so wrapped up in their own journeys to see you on yours, and how your pursuits impact them and theirs. And sometimes bosses fail to see that an employee’s purpose-driven life is directly connected to their company’s profit-driven motives.

Guess what? I don’t think that simply reading any book (let alone mine) can change perspectives like that. That’s the bad news that I’ve discovered in my short time on this planet: it’s rarely that simple to change someone’s mind. To those on the outside, examples of successful people (or companies) who are living their values and getting more done aren’t very persuasive sometimes, because people (and organizations) always find reasons why someone else’s success can’t be replicated.

But thankfully, there’s also some good news. If you want to influence the people around you, you don’t have to buy my book (oh boy, the publisher’s gonna’ love this post) but instead, you can lead the way through your own peacefully productive actions. They are not going to change their worldview or their perceptions of you based on something you post on Facebook or Twitter, or by what I write in the front of my book. But when people see you following through on your dreams – and living your life on purpose – they can’t help but notice. Then the shift happens.

The challenge you face, therefore, is to be courageous in the face of opposition from those around you – “John the Colleague”, “Barbara the Mom”, “Frank the Dad”, “Betsy the Boss”… all of them. This is no small challenge, since you would much rather fight dragons or vampires or something that is clearly evil. Your family isn’t evil (despite what may be evidence to the contrary), your boss probably isn’t wicked (regardless of how that last performance evaluation went) and you probably can’t ignore these people and their perceptions. But I’ve learned something else in my short time on this planet, and it became especially clear while writing The 8: you can’t ignore your power and your purpose for very long without eventually losing your connection to both.

Some battles are better won by example than by persuasion. So you can talk forever about the shift you want to make at work or in your life; why you want to study a subject you’re interested in instead of one people think would lead to better career options, or why you want to communicate more openly and honestly to coworkers and customers, or whatever. And by following this well-trod path of just talking about it, you may make marginally incremental progress in the form of compromise. But while you’re judging yourself by your great intentions, the people around you are judging you by your actions.

More than just talking about making a shift in the direction your life’s headed,  you can put it in perspective for the people around you: I’m doing these things in my life today because they are important to me. I’m willing to give up other things to make it work. I am willing to do what matters today. I am willing to walk the talk.

More often than not, people will get used to it over time. You may always be thought of as the black sheep at the office, the strange one on your sales team, the outlier in the family. But you’ll eventually earn your right to freedom and maybe even some grudging respect from some of the “evil-doers” around you.

Then they’ll say, oh, there goes _____ again. That’s just what she does. Or they’ll think,  _____ has another crazy idea to fulfill his purpose in life… but the last one worked out pretty well for him.

And once in a while, a funny thing happens: they’ll learn from the decisions you made and the actions you took, and how you stepped out, faced down your fears, tapped into your talents and focused on what’s most important to you in your life. (They may or may not realize that some of your fears had to do with them, but by then, it won’t matter.)

So for those of you on a dysfunctional team at work, in an “interesting” family or embedded in a workplace culture where doing what matters is implicitly misunderstood; or for anyone else who feels pressured to be like those around them and dare not blaze their own trail, it’s all up to you now to lead by example. Who knows — maybe John, Mom, Dad and Betsy will end up shifting with you. Because (in one last insight I’ve gained in my short time on this planet) …

Shift can happen.

Now…go make it happen.

Surrender To Win

Back in “the day” – when I was a full-time addiction therapist – we used to talk with the patients all the time about turning it over. All of the clients on my caseload were actively working the 12 Steps of some recovery program (e.g: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gambler’s Anonymous, etc.) and this topic of discussion in my group therapies and individual sessions was a direct reference to Step 3 in that recovery process: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him”. It is as difficult a Step as any for people in recovery to get their heads and hearts around. It means giving up. It means giving over control. It means recognizing that you can’t make most changes in your life on your own (not most of the healthy ones, anyway). It means that your best plotting and planning likely got you here (wherever that “place” is for you – physically, mentally or even emotionally) and you may want to consider connecting with a “higher power”. It means…you must surrender to win.

Here’s the thing. This concept – the idea that one can find hope, strength, comfort, relief, even joy in surrender – doesn’t only apply to people in recovery from addiction. The idea can (for those of us that choose to accept it) be a freeing experience for the rest of us, too. And it doesn’t have to be a “religious” or “spiritual” act. For me, to “turn it over” means to ask for help with something. I’m not saying that’s how you might define it, or that it directly mirrors any Step in the recovery process. It’s just my way. It means reaching out to a power greater than me for hope, for guidance, for clarity and for peace. Sometimes tapping into that “power” is a spiritual experience for me, and other times – most times, in fact – it’s less abstract and easier to measure. It’s a conversation with my wife. It’s asking for help from a colleague. It’s reaching out to my children and Generic Viagra asking for a hug. There’s no greater release from my bondage of self than an embrace from my two children.

Now, I like things that are predictable and easy to measure. I look for things that fit those two criteria everyday. That’s also why I have to surrender, and turn things over, about twenty times a day though; because I’ve learned that life is full of people, places and things that constantly force me to confront my unrealistic expectations of concrete predictability. Very few things in life – at work, at home, with family, with friends – are “predictable” or “easy to measure”. Not sure if that’s true for you? Get out a piece of paper right now and write down all of the things that are true about your life today and are EXACTLY as you predicted they’d be five years ago. Even a year ago. Heck, even a month ago. And try to “measure” that relationship with a challenging colleague or a micromanaging boss. Not so easy, right? It might be time to turn some things over and ask for guidance. It might be time to let go. It just might be time to surrender. If you’re like me, surrendering to what you can’t control yourself and what you should no longer allow to rent space in your head and your heart, can be a big life-changer.

If you choose to “give up” (contrary to what my baseball and soccer coaches told me, and opposite of what cultural ideas have been drilled into me as a man in this world) you may just find some peace. Turn your problems over to a friend who can help you and whom you trust completely. Pray if that’s what works for you – and give it up to the higher power of your understanding. Write your problems on a piece of paper, stuff it inside a balloon, put some helium in it and let it fly away.

Whatever it takes, just remember that you don’t have to go it alone and that surrender doesn’t always mean defeat.

The Addicted Organization (Pt. 1 of 3)

Before founding Ascendi in 2004, I spent the better part of two decades in various clinical and administrative capacities in the field of addiction. Having been privileged enough to share in the lives of thousands of recovering addicts and their courageous families, I left that helping profession and transitioned to another – as an executive and organizational coach – which I anticipated being a fairly drastic departure from my previous career path. Little did I know…

What I’ve learned, in the thousands of hours I’ve spent working deep inside some of the world’s most well-known companies, is that addiction is rampant. On the surface, that statement should come as no surprise. But I’m not talking about the prevalence of employee substance abuse or its impact on productivity or profits. I’m talking about addicted organizations – workplaces that, just like the individuals I worked with in the past, are institutions that are experiencing chronic unmanageability. Companies who are seemingly powerless over their behaviors, who are increasingly involved in pathological processes, whose organizational lives have been dominated by destructive relational practices, who have lost a sense of their values and who function primarily out of characteristics such as chaos, crisis orientation, codependency, manipulation, self-centeredness, secretiveness, avoidance, feeling suppression, disconnectedness, denial, dishonesty and dualism.

The more time I spend consulting with organizations today, the more obvious it’s become that more than just “toxic” or “dysfunctional” (pick your euphemistic label du jour) many workplaces function in the exact same manner as the addicts I’ve treated most of my professional life. These organizations are hooked; and when some of them call my company in to help, they’re often (quite literally) just looking for another fix. So as a “corporate therapist”, what do I do in my work with these companies? Naturally…I conduct an intervention.

Over the next three posts, I’ll pass along some of what I’ve learned in my work with these organizations; and many of them (like so many of the gifted yet troubled addicts I’ve worked with) are good companies. They just can’t seem to quit doing bad things.

First, by reflecting back to the leader(s) in these organizations the behaviors they’ve shared that got them here, I help bring them to Step 1 - and (hopefully) to their admission of powerlessness over the old, destructive practices. This is best accomplished in two ways, much like an addiction counselor would intervene with, say, a heroin addict Viagra 100mg.

  1. I ask the “family”. In this case – the employees. Through interviews and surveys, I gather real (read: verifiable) data about the organization’s destructive behavior and deliver the findings back to the CEO. I’m always sure not to attach any of the emotion the employees may have brought to the disclosure and simply list the behaviors and the apparent consequences to their business, internally and externally. Example: “According to 60% of your Account Managers Sally, the Sales Manager’s attempts to boost product sales through intimidation and/or negative reinforcement such as [insert example of said negative behavior] has made them afraid for their jobs. Salespeople trying to build trust and elicit customer appreciation while conversely feeling mistrusted and under-appreciated by their boss (whether real or imagined) will eventually lead to their disengagement.”

     

  2. I assess the “patient’s” willingness. When I first started out as a consultant, I wrongly assumed that a Service Agreement for some of the organizational development work we do constituted an organization’s admission that they’d reached “bottom”. I soon learned that a signed piece of paper is no more an indication of a real willingness to change than being admitted to rehab signifies an alcoholic’s desire to stop drinking a fifth of Vodka a day. Sometimes the “patient” seeks help to appease a nagging spouse (employee). Other times, a client will involuntarily enter treatment as what we used to call a “nudge by the judge” – mandated to seek help after a DUI conviction or drug-related arrest. In rehab, or in an organizational development project, this might just be an attempt to create the appearance of willingness and to lull the “family” into a false sense of (job) security.

Over the next few posts, I’ll share more insight into the chronic problems facing the addicted organization and my experience in helping to bring these companies into “recovery”.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you! Have you worked in an addicted organization? Are you powerless over the actions of an out-of-control boss? If so, consider the Serenity Prayer that has helped millions of people before you as you try and slay the dragon today…

 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.”


The good news is…there’s hope. Contrary to popular belief, people (and good companies) do change.

Everyone Has a Story

I live in Miami, Florida and it’s a city I’ve loved for forty years. One decidedly unlovable consequence of being here though, is the apparent overrepresentation of completely clueless drivers compared to other cities I’ve been in. As an example of how treacherous the roads can be here, a few weeks ago I was driving home after a softball game when the person in the lane next to me decided to switch lanes – right into the side of my car. The driver accepted responsibility as she admitted she was texting when she hit me. Luckily, we were all unhurt. But boy was I upset.

My friend Pete once told me a story about how a similar experience happened to him; how we was just driving along (on the exact same street, coincidentally) when he, too, was run onto the median after being broadsided by the car in the lane next to him. Pete sprung out of that car “like a bat outta’ hell” (as he tells it) and started to launch into this guy with a full-force verbal assault; not smart in Miami, for many reasons. Pete learned his reason when he neared the car during his tirade and saw that there was a crying little girl in the backseat; the driver’s daughter. The dad was out of his car and opening his own back door as he apologized profusely to Pete and checked on his little girl who was about eight years old. The driver, noticeably shaken and in tears, told Pete that he was rushing to the hospital because his daughter had a fever, hadn’t slept and had been vomiting all morning. Pete looked in the backseat at the sweaty, crying, scared and frail-looking girl and his heart sunk.

Quickly, Pete got on his cell phone casino gratuit en ligne and called the local ER’s back line (he’s a physician there) and after doing a cursory examination of the little girl (and both cars), told the dad to head safely to the hospital – that the nurses would take his daughter right in and that she would be okay. Pete went by the ER an hour later. The girl had a bad stomach virus but she was going to be fine. Then Pete made his way over to the frightened father and they eventually exchanged insurance information. That’s when Pete was the one profusely apologizing for his inappropriate outburst. “Everyone has a story…” is the moral he shares from this experience. As Pete reminded me after my accident and about $4000 worth of damage to my brand new car: “We have to remember that – even in the most frightening and disappointing situations, Dave. Everyone has a story.”

In my work as an individual and organizational coach, I’ve learned that there are some empathetic companies out there; organizations that “get it” and understand that every employee and every customer has a story. Chick-fil-A – a company we’ve partnered with in the past – is one of those great companies and they actually made a short movie on the topic. Enjoy it; it’ll be worth the three minutes, I promise.

Every Life Has a Story

You have a story. Your colleagues and your friends have stories. Your customers have stories. So when someone “broadsides” you at work, your boss “cuts you off” in a meeting, a customer “blindsides” you or a family member “dings” you during Christmas dinner, remember…there’s a story in there.

Be patient.

Respond, and don’t be too quick to react.

Open up the story and read it. You’ll probably be glad that you did.

Getting Out of Line

Every year, the school my children attend holds a festival to celebrate the holidays. There’s always a ton of great food, games and rides for the kids. This year, responding to a great suggestion from one of the parents, the school decided to reach out to two local homeless shelters and invite some less-fortunate families in our community to join in the fun; with all of the ride tickets and food they wanted at no cost to them. About fifty or so men, women and children from the shelters showed up and boy, did they seem to have a wonderful time.

At around 8:50PM, ten minutes before the rides were to shut down, I found my ten year-old son Kevin in line at a bungee ride with three of his friends. Then the man overseeing the attraction began counting heads in line: “Eighteen…Nineteen…Twenty. Sorry, kids…” he said, looking at the twelve or so children behind the twentieth head tapped, “…we only have time to allow these first twenty to ride, then we’re shuttin’ ‘er down”. Kevin was the twentieth, right behind his three friends, and I could see him quietly mouth his joy…”Yesssss!” he whispered to himself, as he and his buddies exchanged high-fives and wide smiles.

For numbers twenty-one through thirty-two though – the children in line who weren’t tapped to ride – there was no celebration, just tears and many long faces. That’s when I happened to notice that all of the kids who were going to miss the ride had red paper wristbands. They were our guests from the neighborhood, many of whom had most likely never even seen this bungee ride before, let alone gone on it, as many of the school’s students in line had done each year. “Wow…” I thought to myself, “…this is not good.” So I stood and watched. I watched as the adult chaperone who was escorting the children from the local shelter asked the attendant if he could make an exception. And I watched as he (and not too politely) said “No”. Then, I watched something beautiful happen.

As Kevin and his friends talked about how fun the ride was going to be and how lucky they were to make the cut, I watched Kevin turn towards the children that had been in line behind him as they walked away with their heads hung low. There he was – the last boy standing, the lucky one – and he was going to enjoy the only ride he talked about for a week leading up to the fair. Then, with no hesitation, that last boy standing got out of line and walked over to one of the children walking away. “Hey, come on back”, Kevin said; “…there’s space for you!” Kevin’s friends were yelling at him: “Kevin, wait! Where are you going?!” And Kevin walked back the twenty feet or so and all of the twelve shelter kids were beaming right behind him. “Guys…”, Kevin said quietly, “…we need to get out of line and let casino en ligne quebec them go. We’ve gone on this thing a thousand times. Come on.”

Two of Kevin’s three friends stepped aside. One stayed in line (he won’t be coming over to our house anytime soon) and then the sixteen kids in front of them saw what has happening. So did their parents who were watching with me. One at a time the parents called their children out of the line; some leaving without even being asked. One at a time their place in line was taken by one of our guests at the fair. Within about a minute, all twelve children who would have otherwise missed the bungee ride were in line, exchanging high fives and wide smiles. And the students who gave up their spots…some were walking away with their heads hung low.

But not Kevin.

Kevin came over to me and said “Dad, let’s go get something to drink, I’m dying of thirst.” And he ran off with his buddy Justin to the drink stand. I just stood there. Utterly amazed. Incredibly moved. Fighting back tears. As I followed Kevin I shook hands with a few of the Dads that had been standing there with me and one of them said, “Dave, Kevin did that.” “I know…”, I said, “…I know.” I was speechless.

I wasn’t shocked though. Kevin (and I say this as humbly and as objectively as I possibly can) is a very kind, compassionate soul. That he would make the sacrifice – and lead others to follow his decision – did not surprise me. I’d seen him lead before, on the baseball field and in our neighborhood. What was so moving to me was not just what he, his friends and other students and families did. What moved me was how he did it. No fanfare. No hesitation. No glory-seeking. No sulking. Not even a word about it…just a run to the drink stand. Man…I wish I could be more like my son.

Later on, when we all got in the car together and headed home, I turned to Kevin in the backseat as he glanced out the window at the ferris wheel. “Kev, I’m so proud of you. You got out of line for the kids from the shelter and let them go on the bungee ride. I love you so much right now and I want you to know that you did a great thing tonight.” “Thanks Dad. They were from one of the shelters you think?”, Kevin replied quizzically. “Well sure, buddy. Didn’t you see their wrist bands?” I asked. “Nope.  They just looked upset and I didn’t want them to be sad. Plus…I’ve gone on that ride a thousand times.”

He didn’t even know. I REALLY wish I was more like Kevin.

So…are you in line right now? Is there an opportunity for you to step aside, to lead, to allow someone else to have the glory?

Let’s look for the opportunity to share some joy – during the holiday season and year-round.

Let’s get out of line.