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The Season to Share Stories

This year the stories that resonate with me are instructive. After two years of a brutal recession stories of people who did all things in moderation find themselves out of work, out of houses, and in some cases out of luck. Yet what I have heard over and over again is not despair but resilience.

Truth be told I am not one for writing up year of end
stories though I respect those who do it well. But this season I have noticed
something about the holiday season that has gone largely unnoticed by me until
now.

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Year’s end is really a time of stories. This is likely
natural to those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter solstice was
a time when our ancestors would find themselves indoors in close quarters
around a fire or an open hearth. When people gather stories come forth some
amusing, some profound and some inspirational.

This year the stories that resonate with me are instructive.
After two years of a brutal recession stories of people who did all things in
moderation (that is did not binge on credit) find themselves out of work, out
of houses, and in some cases out of luck. We hear their stories in the news as
well as in our communities.

Yet what I have heard over and over again is not despair but
resilience. As bad a hand has some people have been dealt, they have found the
will to continue facing life squarely without blinking. This point came home to
me when listening to Roger Rosenblatt discuss his memoir, Making Toast, about raising his daughter’s children. His daughter
Amy died suddenly leaving behind three small children. Rosenblatt and his wife
assumed parental responsibility.

Speaking on The Diane
Rehm Show
Rosenblatt, an essayist and PBS NewsHour commentator, fielded calls from people who had their own stories of
personal loss, most often the lost of someone who died well before their time. One
man spoke of losing a five-year-old special needs daughter. Another spoke of
losing a brother.

One woman summed up the spirit of the hour when she spoke of
losing a son who had suffered from diabetes and later MS. For years her son had
been angry and bitter and asking aloud “Why?” But as years passed he became, in
the words of his mother, “a sweet wise man.” One day his mother asked him “Okay,
why you?” and he looked at her and replied, “Why not me?”

Later his mother asked him how he had found a way to let go
of his anger, he replied in halting speech, “I noticed that being angry didn’t
help anything.” His deadpan quip cracked her up. And now amid her grief of his
recent passing she wanted others to know her son’s powerful lesson of learning
to live with unrelenting adversity.

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Year’s end is a time of reflection. It is a time to remember
all we have to be thankful for. But our thanks should keep in mind those for
whom the past year has not been good. Rosenblatt spoke of the connectedness of
the human family, very often uniting strangers through suffering and grief. The
way to honor that connectedness is to share it with others through your own
story, your own example, and when possible your own giving.

John Baldoni is an internationally
recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach, author, and
speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s top 25
leadership experts. John’s newest book is
12
Steps to Power Presence: How to Assert Your Authority to Lead
. Amacom 2010). Readers are welcome to visit John’s website, www.johnbaldoni.com