If you live in the United States, you may have spent half of last week (and likely most of the weekend) surrounded by rich food, even richer desserts, and a trove of family, friends, and acquaintances you may not see the other 11 months of the year. Thanksgiving is an American holiday with a global message, a focus on being grateful for what we have and those with whom we share it. For many millions, though, it’s a prelude to Christmas and the stress that comes with multiple shopping lists and the pressure to save money while piling up as many gifts as possible per person. Though I hope you all ascribe to the former vice the latter, I hope even more so that your Thanksgiving was fulfilling in the end. In my case, it was beyond so. Not because the turkey was that much better (it was pretty good) or that we saved a ton on Black Friday (never tried it, never will), but because I finally lived out a vision of life harbored in the depths of my heart and mind for more than a decade.
Does your family save the wishbone? The tradition is older than the holiday itself, going back to Roman times. Two diners grab hold of of the triangular clavicle from the front of the turkey and pull apart, each hoping to have in-hand the bigger of the two pieces. Whoever wins that bigger piece has their wish granted. You may scoff but my wife’s family saves the wishbone every year and a couple always breaks it. We’ve split the wishbone many a Thanksgiving before—and for me, the wish was always the same. Moving around as a military family makes for some unique life experiences, but also results in you missing many holidays and family gatherings you would otherwise take for granted. And it’s difficult to establish traditions when you move every couple years; your circle of friends changes and your family can’t always afford to chase you around the country (or world, for that matter). We’d always talked about “settling down” after my time in uniform was done. Buying a house with space for kids and dogs to run. Finding jobs that afforded new freedom by keeping us in the same place. Being another epicenter of activity for a family all situated within four hours’ drive of one another. I’d maintained this dream for more than 10 years, returning to it every Thanksgiving and Christmas—especially those where we were apart from parents, grandparents, and extended family. I would imagine myself at the head of a long dining table, wielding a large carving knife over an unsuspecting yet fully-cooked turkey. Yes, I would sometimes picture Clark Griswold of National Lampoon’s fame … but without all the drama and trees-on-fire effect. For years my wife and I split the wishbone and this was the image I had in mind. Then for the next 364 days, I would visit that vision amidst the bustle of our daily lives.
I had become so used to dreaming it, not living it, that I missed much of the anticipation leading up to this year’s Thanksgiving. Nearing the end of my last assignment away from home, the last six months have been a whirlwind—we bought a house and moved most of the household. With our home coming together, we were eager to host Thanksgiving this year for anyone willing to make the drive. My wife moved ahead of me, so she was responsible for most of the planning as I continued work on the west coast. As everything came together, I remained busy and didn’t focus on what all of this meant. I had been consumed by this vision for so long, I hadn’t thought about it finally coming true. On Thursday afternoon, somewhere around 1pm, I sat down at the head of an eight-person dining table (connected loosely to a card table with three more) with turkey, ham, and sides arrayed end-to-end and all eyes looking back at me. In that moment, calmed in a moment staring back at my family, sharing my home, all around the table, I realized how powerful a vision I’d had all those years and everything I had done to enable it, without knowing in many cases. That vision had given me meaning and a direction personally and professionally that couldn’t be matched with simple language.
After everyone had enjoyed their seconds and thirds, and a slice or two of pie, before the naps kicked in and football-watching began in earnest, my wife and I met in the kitchen and she pointed to the wishbone on the now wholly ravaged turkey. She asked if I was going to cut it out so we could take hold and make our wishes. I looked at the bird a moment then turned back, now knowing what to say. I didn’t know what to wish for. What I’d envisioned for so long had come true. It was someone else’s turn to take hold of the wishbone and see their own vision, to think long and hard about what they saw long-term for themselves and their family, the dream that would carry them through each day. Until one day, for them, that vision comes true too.
Enabled Word exists because of the power of lasting vision, and the power that comes when organizations craft such a vision then enable their teams to find meaning in its achievement. This holiday season, take time to wind down from a busy year and step back to be grateful for those around you. At work and at home. Never take your teams for granted. And never take for granted the power vision can have in everyone’s life.