Being Squeezed

I am not ashamed to tell you I watched some weird TV shows this past weekend. I was exhausted from the last few weeks. We are facing so many struggles individually and as a company, and I needed a break, a distraction from the difficulties. I found a series called “Classic Albums” about how different musicians created the albums for which they are known. I highly recommend the episodes about RushMeatloaf, and Def Leppard. I also ended up watching a show called “Finders Keepers” about an amputee named John Wood, entrepreneur Shannon Whisnant, and John’s amputated leg.

For John, the leg was symbolic of a tragedy in his life that initially led to significant loss, drug and alcohol addiction, and estrangement from his family. For Shannon, the leg presented an opportunity to achieve a life of celebrity and “mo money.” In a bizarre twist, the leg throws these two men into a crisis of conflict with each other, and the resulting outcome surprised me.

Crisis changes things. When the present COVID-19 crisis is past, much will be different. The landscape will have changed. Interestingly, things are always changing, but during a crisis they change more rapidly and without warning. Without the opportunity to adapt over time, we are forced to respond quickly. Being pushed or pressured into a response most often causes us to behave according to our character, or intrinsic attributes. You may have heard the statement, “People are like tubes of toothpaste. When you squeeze them, you find out what’s inside.”

In “Finders Keepers”, John is a mess when the leg crisis begins. He’s addicted to drugs and alcohol, estranged from his family, and alone. Shannon, on the other hand, seems to have it somewhat together. He is married, has a thriving business, and is known and liked in his community. Then the leg thing happens, and the landscape changes rapidly. As the story unfolds, we see each man acting from what was already inside them. John gets clean and sober, reconnects with his family, and gets married. Shannon becomes increasingly obsessed with being a celebrity, which ruins his marriage and his life.

In each case, the crisis did not cause the outcome, but each man’s response to the crisis did.

So it will be with this present crisis. Each of us will determine how we come out of this. Not in terms of fiscal conditions like jobs and retirement accounts and such. Rather, in terms of what we have shown ourselves to be. A dear friend of mine has been sending out an email every day since this began, trying to encourage us during this crisis. One of his emails this weekend reminded us that during a crisis there will be people who will fight beside you and those who will run and protect themselves. There will be those who are loyal and those who don’t even understand the concept. He went on to encourage us to invest time and energy in the people in our lives who demonstrate that they will show up in bad times.

I want to challenge us to not only notice and appreciate people who are loyal and true, but to lead in this behavior. The way this internal character is developed is simple, but it is hard. It is born out of a thousand small choices. Like muscle, our character requires many repetitions of a particular “lift” to gain strength and consistency in that movement. Also, it is never too late to start working out. Crisis often leads people to discount the many small decisions as they focus on the few big ones that seem to carry all the weight. However, if I can’t make the small decisions with character, I will not be able to make the large ones either.

Times of crisis are opportunities to continue (or begin) making many small choices and actions that align with our values and beliefs. Regardless of how difficult things get, we can always treat others with equal value and respect. No matter how much we have to give up, we can always be grateful and generous in spirit and word. Despite how dark it gets, we can always be a light in that darkness for someone else.

This past week was rough, and it will probably get rougher. We are being squeezed. I am grateful and proud that when the Kimray family is under pressure, what comes out is loyalty, generosity, and respect. Our response to crisis won’t always change our circumstances, but it can make a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us, and that is The Kimray Way.