The words spoken in a visitation line can sum up a person’s entire life’s work. Every year, every month, every day, every hour, and every single minute of the impact of one’s life reduced to a single conversation. The words used can tell a significant story to a grieving family about the impact that their lost loved one had on others. Andy Stanley says, “the measure of someone’s life is what they gave away.” Great human beings, who happen to be leaders, give a significant portion of themselves away to others.
When my time comes, I hope that I have lived a life in which my family hears stories about my service to others that they knew nothing about, but doesn’t surprise them. I fall short of this daily, but what if we could all live life with that purpose? The world would be full of long visitation lines with plenty of stories to tell.
This week, we dive into five ways you can guarantee that those you leave behind will hear impactful stories from those in your visitation line:
Be Someone’s Somebody
Occasionally we will do a drill with our team at work. The scenario is, you do not know what circumstance you are walking into. It could be a good thing, you are having your first child, the cancer is in remission, you got accepted to grad school, or the miracle you had been praying for has come to fruition. On the other side of things, maybe your world has fallen apart, things broke bad, the mountain seems impossible to climb, or you can’t see the light through the darkness. Whether it is the best news of your life or the worst, who is your call to?
That person is your somebody. Maybe you are blessed enough to have several somebodies in your world. They may be spouses, soul mates, best friends, parents, co-workers, you name it. Whatever the relationship, you are the first person they call. Be someone’s somebody.
Love Like There is No Tomorrow
The television series Yellowstone usually doesn’t have too many blog-worthy leadership quotes buried in the transcripts. It is kind of a cross between an old western and the Sopranos. The other night, Shannon and I were watching an episode and heard something that was worthy. In response to his wife talking about “forever,” the character Casey says, “there’s no such thing as forever, baby. All we can do is live like there’s no tomorrow, because one day we’ll be right.”
If we are going to live, we might as well love! As long as there is time on the clock, we have the ability to love each and every person that intersects our journey like there is tomorrow. I get it, believe me, some of those people make it difficult to love. Yet, some of us make it difficult for others to love us the same!
Love is a product of our patience, selflessness, empathy, expressed gratitude, care for others, and the intentionality of our words and actions. It is unconditional and full of grace and mercy for others. That level of love will be reflected in the stories told to those you leave behind.
At Least Be Kind
If you struggle with the love concept, start with an easier concept of being kind! A lost art in this severely flawed world.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the home of my Great Aunt, who was affectionally referred to as Titi Carmen. She was one of the sweetest human beings I have ever encountered. She passed away at the age of 86 several months ago. Her daughter, Donna had invited us over to the house as they were offering furniture and other items to family members before they sold the house.
I always go straight for the books. I like to see the types of books people read and especially if there are notes that can connect you with them. One of the first books I came across was a Bible written in Spanish. It was my Great Grandfather’s, Grandpa Jorge, (Titi Carmen’s father) who immigrated from Puerto Rico.
There were several things stuffed in it, but very few notes. The only verse highlighted in the entire Bible was one in which it referenced, “ferviente caridad,” translated in English means, “fervent kindness.” Webster’s Dictionary fervent is defined as, “exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling.” Basically, a next level kindness. If you can be just one thing to others, at least be kind.
Stand in the Gap, Intercede
Interceder in the Leadership and Main vocabulary is defined as, “someone that has redirected your journey.” The visitation line is a common place to share with the person’s family how they redirected their journey. The story of how their life would look a lot different if the person chose selfish over selfless. If they made more withdrawals in people than deposits.
Here is what Interceders do. They stand in the gap for others. How many stories have you heard of coaches, educators, pastors, and leaders who filled a critical void in someone else’s life? A void created by someone else who failed them, being dealt a difficult hand in life, or a result of someone’s own poor choices. They believed in you more than you believed in yourself, they didn’t give up on you even if they had every reason to, picked you up and dusted you off when you got knocked down, or gave you tough love when you needed it.
They interceded on your behalf and stood in the gap for you. Now it is your turn to intercede on the behalf of others. Give them a story to tell.
Be Authentic and Genuine
Each of us were uniquely designed to impact people in different ways. You are the special ingredient in the recipe to better others and the world you live in.
When all else fails, be authentically and genuinely you. Sometimes we do a really good job of complicating what it means to be a good leader.
Authentic and genuine people make great leaders. They are vulnerable, which is relatable. They are empathetic, which makes people feel like they get them. Most of all, these people are just uniquely them. Just be the best version of you, the rest will take care of itself. If you demonstrate vulnerability and empathy through authenticity, you will do just fine. People will follow you. They will tell that story in the visitation line.
We will all be a subject of a visitation line one day. What stories do you want told there? You are in absolute control of that narrative. We could all use a daily reminder that life is short and precious. While hear these words regularly, do we understand the implications of them?
Let’s close with this. No one is going to tell your spouse or your children how great of a spreadsheet you could create, how masterful your public speaking skills were, how great of a developer you were, or the way you could operate a piece of machinery. No one!
They will share stories of how you made them feel. The way you impacted the trajectory of their life.
Great leaders are quality people. Families left behind by quality people will hear stories like, “how they invested in me, visited me in the hospital, called me to check in for no reason, stood up for me, pushed me to be better, believed in me when no one else did, loved me unconditionally, gave me grace, encouraged me when I was down, just listened when I needed to be heard, were present, made me feel like I was the most important person on earth when I was with them, and walked in when everyone else walked out.”
My friends, that is the kind of stories I want those I leave behind to hear for the first time, without being surprised. Why? Because those people closest to me should have experienced the same things.
What if we could live each day with that intentionality? You with me?