Finding out a hurricane is about to bear down on your hometown isn’t the kind of thing most people get excited about, especially when they’re eight years old. But then, most people aren’t like Jayson Zoller.
Jayson grew up in a town in central Florida called Winter Haven, where his father ran the local hardware store. The store was open six days a week, so his dad had to work a lot of hours. He said, “You had to hustle to make a living in that business.” But he also says, “Some of my best memories growing up were during hurricane season.” And it was because of that hardware store.
So starting at around the age of eight, Jayson remembers being shaken out of bed in the early hours when a storm was brewing. The whole family would drive to the store together in the pitch black. “Then,” he said, “we’d spend the day working as fast as we could because there was a line of people out the door trying to stock up on batteries and flashlights or whatever else they needed to weather the storm.”
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, that extra business did mean more money for his family. In fact, Jayson describes the time after hurricane season as something like Christmas for a hardware store owner’s family. But there were two more important things going on for Jayson.
First, there was a clear sense of purpose and duty in these emergencies. He said, “My parents could have done what most people did during these storms: board up the windows, lock the doors, and hunker down till it was over. But we stayed open because we knew that was part of our role in the community. If we locked our doors, people couldn’t get what they needed to feel safe.”
Second, those crisis situations made for serious family bonding time, the kind you just can’t get with a card game or an afternoon at the movies. Mom, Dad, Jayson, and his little sister all worked hard together to serve a common purpose. It turned something dire and ominous into something exciting and playful.
And As an adult, Jayson realized that sense of duty, purpose, excitement, and bonding wasn’t unique to the hardware store business. Any crisis or challenge can provide those same rewards.
And today, any time something difficult pops up at work, remembers his days in Florida. And instead of retreating, he rallies a team and attacks the problem with the same attitude of purpose, duty, and excitement he enjoyed during hurricane season in Florida. And he knew he’d come out of it at the other end with even stronger relationships with the people he works with.
And that, I think, is the most important point. Crises crop up all the time in life. You can choose to look at them as things to dread and board up the windows against. Or you can choose to look at them as opportunities to help those around you weather the storm and a chance to bond with the family, friends, or coworkers who stand beside you.
So, the lesson here is, whenever your family finds itself facing a challenge, instead of just bearing through it, look at it as a challenge and a team sport that each member of your family has a role in. Challenge even your youngest to play a part. And you can start by sharing this story with them, and then having a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.
1) Have you ever done anything that was very important and helpful for other people? What was it? And how did it make you feel to be able to help them?
2) Have you ever been in a bad situation and really needed help yourself? Did someone help you?
3) What do you call someone who helps other people in an emergency? What kind of jobs to those people have? Do you look up to those people?
4) What’s an example of a situation where you shouldn’t try to be a hero, but should just focus on saving yourself?
Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.
Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author.