John is off today. This blog appeared on Dec. 24, 2009 as he wound down his involvement with a Firm that he had created 16 years prior. Merry Christmas.
NEW ORLEANS – Another airport, another rental car and another hotel. This is my last business trip of a year that has been filled with some of the most daunting business challenges I have faced in my 30 years in healthcare.
As I drove to the airport in the chilly predawn hours, I made a wrong turn down a small side street in a not very good part of the town. In the glare of my headlights, as I made a hasty u-turn, I saw a man sitting on the curb. He was holding a little girl. Wrapped in a worn, dirty blanket, they looked like so many street people you see in Dallas or most other cities in America. But this wasn’t just another homeless man. There was a little girl. That shocked me.
I must confess, until that moment on that dingy dark street, my holiday spirits were less than merry this Christmas season. The financial squeeze, brought on by the Great Recession, has affected us all. For the first time in my life I was actually dreading Christmas.
But here I was at 5:30 AM, on the streets of New Orleans. And there was a homeless man and a homeless child. Suddenly my concerns, my problems, seemed pretty trivial.
I had not slept well. Weather forecasts of strong thunderstorms brought warnings of flight delays or cancellations. Most flights were booked with long wait lists for standby passengers. If one of my flights was cancelled, or I missed a connection, getting home would have become an enormous challenge. I like New Orleans, but this is NOT where I want to spend Christmas, alone in a hotel.
Taking counsel of my fears, I tossed and turned most of the night. I finally gave up on sleep and got up at 4 AM. This is all to say that if I had not left for the airport so early, if I had not made that wrong turn, I would not have seen that man and little girl. I would have returned to Dallas, locked in my own world with concerns and challenges that paled by comparison to a homeless man trying to take care of a little girl on the mean streets.
Christmas is a time for family, for reflection and renewal. On this Christmas Eve, I am in Dallas with my wife. For the first time in long time, we are not with our extended family. The weather is cold and it has begun to snow. I still have the pressing concerns of business but now I have the image of that little girl and the man, huddled on a dark and lonely New Orleans street.
I am so lucky, so blessed.
“Almost no one — outside of the infamous one percent — is honestly out of the realm of the possibility that one day they could become homeless.” -Bruce McTague, Enlightened Conflict