That's what we say when we first learn about an inexplicable tragedy in another's otherwise picturesque life. We struggle to pull sense from the senseless while grudgingly admitting that the full truth will ultimately slide into the dark. Terminal illness stalks a friend. A marriage implodes. A neighborhood explodes. A career collapses. A child vanishes. A public hero lives and dies in a private nightmare.
The most recent and raw example of this final disaster is Jovan Belcher. On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker shot and killed the mother of his three-month old daughter Zoe just before taking his own life in front of his coach and general manager. Successful and accomplished by virtually every external measure, the loving family man his teammates thought they knew is a phantom, fiction, or something beyond reach and reason.
Tragedies caused and suffered by those like Jovan affect me deeply because I used to be a crisis and suicide counselor. Even though nearly two decades separate me from those nights on shift, I still hear the sobs of strangers as I tried to convince them why their next breath was better than the bullet they just loaded. They wrestled daily with stress unimaginable while working and living in quiet desperation, trying to move through a life they no longer wanted to live. Yet sadly, tragically, they were everywhere.
And you never knew.
"We must be sensitive to the battles other employees faced outside of the controlled culture of the credit union."
My mentor and dear friend Jenny Budreau, Chief Operating Officer at FORUM Credit Union, always reminded me how we must balance the demands of the bottom line with the needs of the employees who make those numbers possible. We must be sensitive to the battles other employees faced outside of the controlled culture of the credit union, because far too many had already put in the physical and emotional equivalent of a full day's work under their own roof before they ever clocked in under ours.
Her wisdom is echoed by Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn in the post-game comments he shared Sunday after his team's emotional victory…and loss:
"When it happened, I was thinking in my head 'What could I have done different?' When you ask someone 'How are you doing?', do you really mean it? When you answer someone back 'How are you doing?' are you really telling them the truth? We live in a society of social networks, Twitter pages and Facebook. That's fine and stuff, but we have contact with our work associates and our family and our friends and it seems when we're outside we're more preoccupied with our phone and the other things we got going on instead of the actual relationships we have in front of us. And hopefully people can learn from this and try to figure out if someone's actually battling something, you know, deeper on the inside than what they may be revealing on a day-to-day basis."
Above whatever else we think we are, beyond anything we do on this Earth or in this credit union industry, we are "people helping people" first and finally. Regardless of your faith or creed, it's easy to become bored and cynical in the rush of Christmas gift exchanges, office team lunches, time off, and to-do lists. But in all of this noise, there is someone in your office and org chart who desperately needs a kind word, the gift of a listening ear, a glimmer of hope, some courage to help them fight a battle that's close to claiming them. Look for them. Connect with them. Help them. It could be what moves them toward the peace this season promises.
You never know.
The president and founder of NO NET Solutions, Andy Janning is an eight-time state and national award winner for overall excellence in organizational development, a popular speaker at conferences and events across the country, writer, and voiceover artist. He delivers proven leadership consulting results through the “Leader Effectiveness Training” program and offers a wide variety of workshops and webinars to improve your parenting, speaking, serving, training, communication, and leadership skills. To learn more, and to find out why he occasionally runs with scissors, visit AndyJanning.com and follow him on Twitter at @andyjanning.