How present are you, day to day, with family members, colleagues, and customers?
Most of us humans live in our “own worlds” some of the time, focused on our experiences, our concerns, our needs, and our desires.
When we’re in our own world, we don’t notice others. In that mindset, we’re unable to respond nimbly to others or to respond to opportunities around us.
When we’re not present, the message we send to others is “you are not important.”
Sometimes when we’re not present, we put lives in danger. Let me offer an example.
Years ago I was a school bus driver. The picture above is of a “Crown key,” which opened the storage compartments on the 91-passenger Crown buses I typically drove.
Safe operation was a primary concern. I was well-trained to conduct safety inspections of my bus before every route.
On this particular trip, I was transporting fifty high schoolers to a student government conference, an eight-hour drive away.
I’d been doing this trip for years. We loaded the students on Thursday at 5pm so we could arrive at the state capital hotel by 2am. The conference began at 9am the following morning.
I settled in to the routine of driving. Most of the students were asleep. Traffic on the highway was light, typical at 11pm.
I hit an unexpected bump – unusual for a big loaded rig. The bus was handling fine, so I thought nothing of it.
A moment later, one of the students walked up the aisle to me and said, “I think I just saw something fly past my window outside when we hit that bump.” I told him thanks, I’ll handle it, and to return to his seat.
Within a few minutes, two semi-trailer trucks pulled alongside my bus and honked their air horns. I looked and waved – and kept driving. These two rigs honked again and again. I kept driving.
The trucks then maneuvered in front of me to slow me down. Lights flashing, the trucks carefully guided me and my bus to the side of the road.
Confused, I got out and asked what was wrong. The drivers walked me to my left rear axle and shined a flashlight on the inner dual rim. The tire had burst, leaving just the sidewalls on the rim. That was the bump I felt. And, it was the torn away tire that the student had seen flying past the window.
The rim was aglow with the heat generated by the shredded tire. If I’d have kept driving, the heat would have caused a fire, putting the lives of those students at risk.
The trucks guided my bus slowly to an all-night truck stop where the tire was replaced. The rest of the trip was uneventful.
I spent the whole weekend chastising myself for not paying attention – for “going through the motions” when my responsibilities required me to be fully present.
I am still, today, grateful for the truck drivers’ attention and service to help a young bus driver who should have known better.
Show up, every day. Be observant. Be present. Don’t just be ready to engage – engage!
When are you fully present? When do you “go through the motions”? What practices and prompts help you to “show up” every day with family, peers, & customers? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.
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Photo © 2013 Chris Edmonds. All rights reserved.