I’ll never forget walking into my home during my freshman year in high school. My mom came into my room and carefully explained that my grandfather had just committed suicide. I’ll never forget the flood of confusion, sadness, and frustration.
Not long after his death, I went to a gathering for high school students. I can’t tell you anything about the program that night. The only thing I can remember is that I stood outside with one of the volunteer adult leaders, the legendarily quirky Mark Buchsieb. The two of us just stood there together. I can’t tell you anything he said specifically about my grandfather. I can’t tell you anything that I shared. What I can remember is him standing with me, being fully present and available with me. He was practicing what he referred to as our “ministry of availability” to those around us.
Many years later, as I sat at an airport bar, a man named Jack walked up.
“They servin’ f#*%ing drinks at dis bar?” he questioned me in a thick New England accent.
He was gruff. Swore a lot. We started talking sports. Then we talked work. Eventually we talked family.
“You know, my father just had a f#*%ing stroke,” he abruptly threw on the table. “That’s why I’m here… I’m going to see my dad.”
Silence. In a matter of seconds, the entire nature of our encounter changed.
When he eventually left, I wondered whether I should have offered him some wonderful Dr. Phil-type advice or attempted some sage wisdom. But words were not what Jack needed. He needed a body, a presence, someone who was just available to listen. Family and friends are supposed to care, but a stranger—that’s different. Somehow Jack knew I cared. Somehow Jack sensed I was available.
Imagine what kind of impact we can have if we make ourselves available to everyone on our path. Imagine what kind of organizations we can create when caring for people becomes our highest value.
Every single person in this world operates at a higher level in all facets of their life when they feel valued, affirmed, celebrated, challenged, and cared for.
Today, don’t just show up. Be available.
Jason Barger is the globally celebrated author of Step Back from the Baggage Claim, ReMember, and the newly released book Thermostat Cultures, as well as a coveted keynote speaker and leadership consultant. More importantly, he’s striving to be an above average father, husband, and friend.
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