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The Power of Connection: Lessons from Moving My Parents

It’s been a couple of weeks since my journey from Dublin to my home state of Indiana. This journey  was not just a trip down memory lane but a profound lesson in the impermanence of material possessions and the enduring value of human connections. Moving my mother and stepfather, Jerry, into an assisted living community in Ohio was a poignant reminder of the preciousness of the little moments we often take for granted.

My parents had lived independently in Indiana for several years, having downsized from their large lakefront home seven years ago. The lake home, filled with memories and material goods, was sold along with many of their belongings. My mother, ever the optimist, believed she would stay in her smaller home “until they take me out in a pine box.” Even as Jerry’s dementia progressed, she was determined to manage on her own. But life, with its unpredictable twists, had other plans.

In recent weeks, my mother suffered a minor stroke and was diagnosed with advanced degeneration in her eyes. The realization that she could no longer drive and that Jerry required more care than she could provide forced a difficult but necessary decision. They needed to move closer to my sister and into a community that could offer the support they both required.

So, my daughter Lulu and I flew to Indianapolis to offer what help we could to my parents and her grandparents for this significant transition. Driving my parents to Centerville, Ohio, to sign the papers for their new, much smaller accommodation at St Leonard’s Continuing Care Retirement Community, was an emotional experience. We met up with my sister Andrea, her husband, and their daughter as soon as we crossed the state line. Andrea has really taken the lead on supporting our parents as she was the one who researched and discovered this newest facility which is just a nineteen-minute drive from her home, ensuring that in addition to the always on-call nursing staff, she could also be there for them in times of need.

You Can’t Take It With You

As we prepared for the move, we also arranged an estate sale for most of the remaining things in my parents’ Indiana home. The last rounds of accumulated possessions – sofas, a king-size bed, lamps, bar stools, dining room sets, paintings – all found new owners. What struck me was how these items, once so integral to my parents’ daily lives, were now just things. Their true value lay not in their physical presence but in the memories they held and the experiences they represented.

In the basement, amidst a dozen cardboard boxes, I found keepsakes from my own past: photo albums, high school yearbooks, and holiday decorations. These were items I had once thought essential but had left behind when moving to Ireland over a decade ago. As I sifted through them, I realized how little they mattered now. I took a few photos and a couple of decorations, leaving the rest behind. It was a liberating feeling, underscoring the truth that material possessions are fleeting and ultimately unimportant.

Focus on Building Your Relationships Even More Than Your Career

This realization extends beyond our personal lives into our professional environments. In the workplace, we often get caught up in the pursuit of success, accumulating accolades and material symbols of achievement. Yet, what truly matters are the relationships we build and the moments we share with our colleagues. Life is short, and we cannot take our material wealth with us. What endures are the connections, the kindnesses, and the shared experiences.

In leadership, this translates to cherishing the little moments with our teams. A smile, a word of encouragement, a genuine compliment – these small acts of kindness create a positive and supportive work environment. Proactively making time to connect with colleagues, understanding their challenges, and offering support can transform the workplace into a community where everyone feels valued.

As I sat in Newark Airport, preparing to fly back to Dublin, I was filled with a renewed appreciation for the present moment. The estate sale, the move, and the sorting of possessions have been powerful reminders that life is ephemeral. We are not King Tut; our treasures are not meant to accompany us into the afterlife. Instead, our legacy is built on the moments of joy, compassion, and connection we cultivate with others.

Embrace Each Day with Gratitude

In the spirit of this realization, I encourage you to embrace each day with a sense of gratitude and presence. Smile more, be kind, and take the time to truly listen to those around you. In the workplace, let us foster an environment where every team member feels seen and appreciated. Let us prioritize human connections over material achievements, understanding that it is the former that enriches our lives and leaves a lasting impact.

As leaders, our role is not just to drive performance but to nurture a culture of empathy and mutual respect. By cherishing the little moments and valuing the people we work with, we create a legacy that transcends the ephemeral nature of material goods. So, let’s make every moment matter, both in our personal lives and in our professional endeavors. In the end, it is the connections we forge and the kindness we share that truly define us.

Thank you for allowing me to share this journey with you. May we all find ways to cherish the little moments and build meaningful connections in our lives and workplaces.

Gina London

Gina London

An Emmy-winning former CNN correspondent and anchor with premier clients in five continents, she guides the top companies and executives in the world to more positively connect and engage with their employees, their board and themselves.

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Meet Gina!

An Emmy-winning former CNN correspondent and anchor with premier clients in five continents, she guides the top companies and executives in the world to more positively connect and engage with their employees, their board and themselves.

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