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Family, celebration, lots of food, traditions, shopping…the holidays are upon us! One family celebration popped in my head that is memorable and provided a life-long lesson.

My mom was a few days shy of 100 years old when she passed away, a long and beautiful life. Yes, I have great genes!! When my mom moved into a nursing home I would visit and bring her balloons, flowers, signs, tiaras, etc. that would brighten her day. She was not very communicative, but these always made her smile and in turn made my “heart sing.”

I visited my mom the week of Thanksgiving when she was 99 years old. I came with turkey shaped balloons and yellow roses to provide holiday spirit. As I walked towards my mom’s room, I saw her sitting in her wheelchair alone in the hallway. She was sitting quietly while a loud gathering was happening in her room. My mom had a roommate and it seemed to me, they were celebrating the holiday with singing and laughing and had not invited her to participate.

I walked up to my mom and tried to peak in the room but there was a big crowd. I could feel my temperature start to rise as I thought, “How could they exclude my mom and leave her sitting in the hallway all alone? How mean, how cold, how rude!” I got more and more agitated as I thought,” I would never do that to her roommate, how could they do that to my little old mom?”

I tied the balloons on her chair to cheer her up and told my mom that I would return after I found a nurse. I roamed around and could not find her nurse. I returned to my mom and sat on the floor next to her while the party was going on in her room. We held hands and sang songs as we tried to create our own party in the hallway to mask the sounds coming from the room.

Eventually her nurse came down the hallway and I raced up to her and asked, “What is going on? There seems to be a gathering and I can’t believe that my mom would be excluded from the Thanksgiving party!” The nurse looked at me and quietly said, “Her roommate passed away and the family is having a wake in her room. The family gathered to pay respects and they thought it would be best if your mom was not a part of that event.” In a split second my mood changed from frustration to compassion to embarrassment. My emotions got in the way and I assessed the situation incorrectly. I told the nurse, “Thank you for letting me know, I am so sorry.”

I walked away to sit on the floor next to my mom and quietly held her hand. I was thankful that she was not participating in the event and still thankful that I had her.

This experience was memorable and left a mark on me. It is applicable to my personal and professional life. We live in a world with an overwhelming amount of information, significant responsibility, and the need to make quick decisions. In business, the perception is “the faster we move, the quicker we get there.” I wonder where “there is” and how should I reach the destination. I could choose to travel at the speed of light, jump to conclusions, and miss important milestones. Or, I could decide to anticipate speedbumps and forks in the road to view the sights while I arrive at the correct destination in peace. The questions below allow me to arrive with minimal misconception.

  •  Have I asked questions to determine what is really going on?
  •     Do I understand both sides of the story?
  •     Are my emotions getting in the way?
  •     Is there information that would cause me to make a different decision?
  •     Am I willing to let go of ego, be patient, and let the scenario unfold?
  •     Have I stopped to breathe and gain perspective? 

Questioning your perceptions takes time, patience, and a lack of ego. When you approach a situation, manage your emotions and expectations. You can slow down, seek to understand, and connect.

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding. Mahatma Gandhi