Over the last few weeks, I have talked to and witnessed so many folks move through extremely difficult life events and circumstances.  I’ve talked to folks who have lost loved ones unexpectedly, have gotten into a car crash, have received an unexpected medical diagnosis, have had a loved one receive an unexpected medical diagnosis, and have had to watch a family member decline significantly in health.  The more that I’ve talked with people in my community during this time period, the more it has been highlighted to me just how much pain a lot of folks are experiencing right now.

Whether you are experiencing this collective grief and hardship that many of us are moving through right now or not, I want to share a store with you that I think is a helpful one to keep in mind during this time:

The day after my brother, TJ, unexpectedly died, I went into “doing mode” to survive.  I couldn’t sleep the night before, so I laid in bed, wide wake, for hours until the clock hit 4 AM. When I got out of bed, my eyes were bone dry (and painful) from crying so violently the day before and my body felt empty-as if all the life I had inside me “before” had deteriorated as the grief pillaged my body and established residency in the core of my being.

The sun was not yet out and my family was still asleep in bed when I decided to quietly make my way downstairs to begin doing something, anything, to rid myself of the helplessness that bound itself to my grief.  I knew that family and friends would be coming into town and stopping by the house later that day, so I started doing the only thing I could: cleaning.  I scrubbed the whole house, top to bottom, on my hands and knees, not wanting my parents to have to worry about a clean house before guests arrived that afternoon.  With each scrub, I wished for the nightmare to end and, yet, with each wring of the sponge, it never did.  I had entered a new day and my brother was still dead.  I was face-to-face with the first full day (of a lifetime’s more to come) of living my life without my brother in it.

June 26th, 2020 was the day I received the worst news of my life.  June 27th, 2020 was the first day that TJ would never be a part of and that day, hands down, was the worst day of my life.

Yet, on the worst day of my life, I went out into the world to get TJ’s favorite baked good from his favorite bakery as soon as the sun had risen and the floors had dried.  As I walked up to the front of the bakery just after sunrise on this picture-perfect summer day, I was blinded by the normality of life.  Couples were holding hands; parents were playing with their children; neighbors were hugging and laughing; dogs were barking; birds were chirping; summer workers on bikes were racing by, eager to clock in for the day.  My life felt like it was falling apart and, yet, the world, at large, was entirely the same.  Time hadn’t stopped for everyone else like it had for me.

It was in this moment that I realized: On any given day, at any given moment in time, someone could be navigating the worst day of their life.

As I stood in line surrounded by dozens of other folks who were happily waiting for their baked goods, no one knew that I was amidst the worst day of my life.  Likewise, as we move throughout our daily lives, we never know if the people we are encountering at the grocery store, in the park, at the gas station, etc. are going through the hardest day of their lives.

You don’t know if the strangers you pass by just received news of the death of a loved one.  You don’t know if they just received a life-changing diagnosis.  You don’t know if they just had to hold the hand of a loved one who was told they only had a month to live.  You don’t know if their car just got totaled in a traumatic accident earlier that day.

We never know the details of the lives of the strangers we share our communities with.  We never know if the people around us are amidst their worst day, living their worst nightmare.

So let this serve as your reminder (and mine): In every way you can, on any day you can, be kind.  Look people in the eye and smile.  Say thank you.  Be patient and show people grace when they make a mistake.  Hold the door open.  Show compassion.

Imagine how you would want to be treated out in the world (and in business!) on YOUR worst day and start treating others that same way, everyday.  We can’t prevent a lot of the devastating things that happen in the world.  We can, however, be the kind of people that make the world a gentler place to land for those who are actively in the devastation zone.

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