Monday, March 18, 2024

Who Is My Neighbor?


I recently had the opportunity to attend a church service where the sermon was based on the parable of the Good Samaritan.  I’ve heard many sermons based on this famous parable, but this one definitely came out of leftfield…and I do me THE LEFT field.


This pastor, who happened to be a woman, repeated and repeated and repeated the question from the parable: “Who is my neighbor?”.  Her answer was emphatically “Everyone”.   She suggested that Israel should treat the Palestinians as neighbors.  Russians should treat Ukrainians as neighbors.  Americans, Christians in particular, should treat those crossing our southern border as neighbors.  Every conflict could be settled if we were just good neighbors.


She made the point that in this parable, the Samaritan who showed mercy was the “good neighbor”.  The priest and the Levite who had passed by the badly injured stranger and offered no help were definitely not being good neighbors.  The parable concludes with Jesus commanding that we should behave like the Good Samaritan.  Jesus tells us that we must “Go and do likewise”.


So, it begs the question, What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)?  What should the Christian position be when it comes to immigration for example?  Some would argue that certain Christian organizations are making things worse by enabling people to make the long trek to our southern border and advising them how best to crossover; and then telling them “what to say in order to stay.”  Unfortunately, “activist” Christians must ultimately face socio-economic and political reality mixed in with a large measure of unintended consequences.  Simple solutions to complex problems seldom work.  Even more elaborate, sophisticated solutions often don’t work and almost never work as planned.  History is littered with problems which were only made worse by the solutions inflicted upon them.  The current situation in Israel being a classic example.  


People have been twisting scripture and stretching Jesus’ parables for two thousand years to fit their agendas.  It’s a big reason why so many people have walked away from the Christian faith and religion in general.  But ultimately people will end up believing something.  Everyone has a belief system, even if it’s just doing what “feels” right or following the crowd.


The world is complicated and broken.  8 billion people, 56 million square miles of dry land and 140 million square miles underwater;  millions of people sick and starving along with millions sick and overweight.  Vastly different cultures, religions, languages and living standards.  Only God can fix it and he will…when he’s finally had enough of whatever this is.  And Christians would be well-advised to consider that some problems are above their paygrade.  Do the right thing when and where you can, but don’t make things worse.  Now that’s being a good neighbor.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

What Job Market?

Disconnect: An instance of disconnecting or being disconnected.


With a 3.7% unemployment rate and 30% more job openings than there are unemployed people, one might well conclude that the job market is great.  But that glowing big picture looks very different at ground level. There’s an old saying that “all politics are local”.  The same could be said when it comes to jobs.  All job markets are local.  And in addition to being local, they are specific, specific with regard to industry and function.  So, there is not one “Job Market”.   In fact, there are thousands of job markets just in the United States. 


The job market I know best is the one for transportation/logistics management and executive talent.  And even within that space, there are “job markets”.  Markets segmented by service offering, geography, commodity, equipment types and job functions.   So, when someone asks “How’s the job market”, my response is usually “Depends on which one you’re talking about.”


That said, there are clearly factors which impact the overall job market across the nation and certainly for specific industry segments.  In 2024, for the transportation/logistics industry it’s mostly about the economy.  Demand is down, rates are down and post-covid/inflation driven costs are up.   We are in the middle of “the great capacity reset”.  This time next year there will be fewer trucks in service.  It’s also likely there will be fewer freight brokers in the market.  (And probably fewer headhunters).  Companies are in “hunker down”/cost containment mode.  They are hiring only when there is a real, immediate need and only using search firms when other options are not working.   It is what it is…but this too shall pass.


And when it does, we will be left with much larger, long-term job market issues.  Some of these will have a disproportionate impact on the transportation/logistics job market.  Demographics is a big one.  While the USA’s demographic profile is not as challenging as Western Europe’s, we are still facing a shortage of younger workers.  And it’s an even bigger issue for the transport/logistics sector.  Not only do we have a shortage of drivers, maintenance technicians and warehouse workers; it has become increasingly difficult to hire and develop talent for leadership positions.  This is forcing changes on an industry that tends to resist change when it comes to workloads, working hours and work locations.  But it’s also an industry that cannot afford to just pay people more for the same old working arrangements. New technologies and innovation will take over some of the work.  But the industry will continue to be relatively people intensive.  Hiring and retaining the best people will be the key to success.


And many of these people are now chasing that elusive dream of work-life balance.  Work-life balance means different things to different people.  And rarely does it mean the same thing to your boss as it does to you.  But if you’re the boss and you want to hire and retain people, you best pay attention.  Work-life balance is a real thing and it’s not going away.  This will translate to more remote or hybrid work arrangements, better benefits and increased PTO. 


Today’s workers are also less inclined to frequently relocate for work and if they do relocate it tends to be to a place of their choosing that accommodates a spouse/partner’s career and/or meets other nonwork-related concerns.  So, promotions that involve relocation or might disrupt work-life balance are not a big motivator these days.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, people are less inclined to feel a sense of loyalty or attachment to a company.  They may actually like their job and even develop meaningful relationships with co-workers, but most folks really don’t trust their employers.  In fact, the more companies talk about putting their people first, the less their people believe it unless there is compelling evidence to support such claims.  Free T-shirts and company picnics just aren’t what they used to be.  Show them the money and a consistently positive work environment and they might just stay awhile.


So back to that question, “How’s the Job Market?”.  The best answer might be “Disconnected”.   Employees want better pay and benefits and they want a life outside of work.  Employers want productivity and a fair return on their investment.  Work-life balance is a two-way street. Organizations that find ways to “connect” with their people will be the winners.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Night Breaking


Early in my career I worked for one of the big, unionized LTL carriers.  I was in the management training program which meant working a lot of nights and weekends in the beginning.  There was no such thing as a normal sleep schedule.  But I was young and adaptable.  When I had the chance to sleep, I went to sleep quickly and slept hard.  Sometimes I would build up a big sleep deficit and on an off-day sleep 12 or 14 hours straight through.  


But that was then, and this is now.  And between then and now, sleep has become increasingly difficult for me.  Aches and pains and chronic sinus problems do not lend themselves to long periods of sound sleep.  And, of course, there are those frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom which just seem to be  part of getting old.  Fortunately, I can usually go right back to sleep and manage to cobble together 6 or 7 hours of decent sleep.  Throw in a nap now and then and I’m OK.


That is, until I get sick.  Sick people need rest and sleep.  But when I’m sick, I’m too uncomfortable to rest or sleep.  Case in point, I recently had a long bout with RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).  I was not terribly ill, never ran a fever or had aches and pains.  But just enough breathing and coughing and wheezing to make sleep almost impossible for one who has problems sleeping in the best of circumstances. 


So for weeks now, my wife and I have been in separate bedrooms.  She asleep and me searching for sleep.  I’ve tried white noise, brown noise, green noise.  Meditative music.  Reading until the words become a blur.  I go sit in a recliner.  I pile pillows up around me in bed hoping to find a comfortable position. I watch You Tube videos. 


I even talk to God, but mostly he talks to me.  He has me pinned down.  It’s 3 o’clock in the morning and there is no place to hide.  I can’t even tap out and go to sleep.  God has loaded up You Tube with messages.  So has the devil, but I seem to only be getting recommendations to listen to C.S. Lewis books and essays, or Charles Spurgeon sermons, or James Earl Jones reading the Bible.  Or sometimes it’s just two or three hours of old hymns on a violin or cello.  The Word will not allow me to sleep until I have listened and confessed.  The Word is breaking me down and building me up; and there is nothing I can do about it.  It is grace and mercy for a sick old man who needs much more than just a few hours sleep.


Should I give thanks for being sick?  I think not.  God doesn’t make people sick.  I’m not putting that on Him.  But He does allow sickness and pain and loss in this life and does so for His purposes.  This is a mystery we dare not attempt to unravel.   We can only give thanks that He is there with us, wide awake and restoring our soul.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Chaos and Reality


“Chaos is the score upon which reality is written.” – Henry Miller

So, we come to the end of the year and it’s time to grade my 2023 predictions and look ahead to 2024.

 2023 Prediction Reviews and Grades:

 _1 The Ukraine-Russia conflict gets resolved. Probably before the end of March.  Russia gets something out of it and the world agrees that Russia did not lose the war (even if they did.)

Grade F -  (Now it’s going to be a stalemate until the 2024 election is over).

_2 With the Ukraine-Russia situation settled world energy markets calm down and the European economy starts a slow recovery.  2023 will not be great and we will have a recession.  But it won’t be very deep nor will it last long.  Inflation eases up.

Grade  B -  (I should have said we might have a recession.  We dodged that one, so I was wrong.  Otherwise, not too far off on this prediction.

_3 The 2024 Presidential campaign is in full swing by the second half of the year.  The Democrats are stuck with Biden/Harris and the Republicans try to figure out how to make Trump go away.  I predict Trump does indeed fade out.  Barring a scandal of some sort, DeSantis is the favorite going into 2024.

Grade F – (Trump has not gone away yet and DeSantis has faded.  Biden/Harris may not be the ticket for the Dems.  American politics are in crazy land.   

_4 The Stock Market surges in the second half of 2023.

Grade A -  Pretty accurate on this one.

_5 2023 will be a big year for M&A activity, especially in transportation/logistics and food/grocery.

Grade A – Again not a bad prediction. 

_6 Georgia repeats as college football national champs. Kansas City wins the Super Bowl.

Grade A – 2024 will be different

_7 As evidence mounts that Covid originated in a Chinese lab, the “Covid Story” goes away.  Republicans will push it, but it will be to a dead end.

Grade B – I think this is sort of the way it turned out.  Will probably be discussed more so in 2024 as part of the Election battle.

_8 There will be some Federal response, at last, to the border crisis.  It has become a nasty loose end going into the 2024 elections and the Democrats recognize the need to do something.

Grade F – Really doesn’t appear that the Feds have done much and it’s going be a major issue during the 2024 campaign.  Weak play by the Dems.

_9 The United States, along with other Western industrialized nations, continues to move further to the left on climate, economic and social issues.  Conservatives will object and continue to issue dire warnings.  But the tide has turned and isn’t likely to change until there is some sort of cataclysmic event.

Grade B – I figured this was an easy grade A prediction but Climate was really the only move further to the left.  If anything Economic and Social issues might be leaning to the right just a bit.

_10 And lastly, I have one prediction that is guaranteed to be correct: Expect the Unexpected. 

 Grade A -  The “unexpected” is always  reliable and the Hamas-Israeli conflict certainly qualifies.  Not unexpected that there would be some sort of Palestinian-related trouble, but certainly not of the current magnitude.  Nor would one have expected the level of protest and anti-Israel sentiment across college campuses in the States.  


 And now for the 2024 Predictions

 _1 The economy shows some improvement driven by lower energy costs and a mid-year interest rate cut.

 _2 Trump/Haney lose to Biden/not Harris in a very close election.  (The Democrats must come up with a viable running mate for Biden given the likelihood that he cannot remain upright for four more years.) Republicans are fighting an uphill battle.  Younger people, BIPOCs and single women will overwhelmingly vote Democrat.  The abortion issue will be a major factor in this election. Whatever the outcome, the loser will go ballistic.

 _3 The Israeli-Palestinian crisis continues triggering terrorists’ attacks on European and American targets. This is going to get very ugly.

 _4 Trump’s legal battles drag on as do Hunter Biden’s. This too shall pass.

 _5 Over in the toy department, Alabama wins another Natty and the 49ers win the Super Bowl.  Paris hosts the 2024 Olympics. It turns out to be more of a Tik-Tok event than a television event. Advertisers, networks and nations lose vast sums of money on the Olympics. Eventually, the world will decide to just let Greece have the Summer Olympics and Switzerland the Winter Olympics on a permanent basis.

 Five predictions are enough.  Of course, there will be the unexpected. And that will change everything.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

It Happened


A recent poll conducted by The Economist/YouGov reports that 20% of young Americans age 18-29 believe that the Holocaust is or may be a myth; that it didn’t actually happen.  If one in five young people actually do not believe the Holocaust occurred;  is it any wonder why so many elite college campuses have become hotbeds of anti-Semitism? 

Certainly one may rightly plead the case on behalf of the Palestinian people who have legitimate grievances against Israel and those who have supported and enabled the injustices inflicted on them. But one must not pretend that the Holocaust did not happen just so they can feel more virtuous in supporting Israel’s enemies.

My father was a member of the 101st Airborne.  He was with those who liberated a Nazi concentration camp.  It was one of the few war experiences he was willing to share. Together we would look at the photos and then he would just go silent.  He could never reconcile what he saw there with what he had been taught and once believed about God.  It haunted him until the day he died at the age of 46; an accidental death and an empty vodka bottle near where he had been working.

So for those of you who may not believe the Holocaust actually happened, I can assure you that it did.


        "For the dead and the living, we must bear witness." - Elie Wiesel

Saturday, December 9, 2023

As Are We All


I was recently watching a television show where an old man in a nursing home was talking to a younger man about the young man’s father whom the old man had known well.  This father had been dead for many years.  The son remembered him from his childhood and the memories were painful.  He was a hard, demanding man; prone to drink and inclined to discipline his children in the old ways.  

The son asked the old man, “You knew him well. What sort of man was my father?”.  

The old man hesitated and then looking into the son’s eyes replied sadly, “A lesser man than he had hoped to be…as are we all.”

That might be one of the best lines I have ever heard.  Most of us have the tendency to judge others far too harshly while giving ourselves a pass on our behavior to the point of even blaming others for the people we have become.  

I’m not going to make this about victimhood or oppression and all the socio-economic-political push and pull around those issues.  This is, and should be to each of us, more personal.  How does one feel about the people in their life who have let them down?  Family members who failed to meet expectations, would- be mentors who let them down, employers who did not deliver on their promises, people in one’s life who just let us down without warning or regret.  

But how often do we look in the mirror and recognize that we are that family member who failed, the mentor who missed the opportunity to change someone’s life for the better, the employer (or employee) who did not deliver on promises or that we are the person in someone else’s life who let them down? 

Repentance begins with recognition.  Certainly, the realization that we are not the person we had hoped to be.  But more importantly, confessing that we are not the person God made us to be.  I don’t mean physically or mentally.  I mean the person you are as an eternal, spiritual being made in the image of God.  That person is the one who must confess they are less than they had hoped to be and most assuredly less than God created them to be… are we all.


Friday, November 24, 2023

Recognizing The Good


In the Hebrew language there are several ways to express thanks or gratitude.  The one I like best for our season of Thanksgiving is Hakarat Ha’tov which literally means “recognizing the good”.  In the world today, finding “good” to recognize can be a challenge.  And too often recognizing something good triggers a severe, negative response from those for whom any good thing came at the expense of something or someone else.  For many the world is a zero-sum game.


But, I cannot believe this world is a zero-sum game. Therefore, I choose to recognize the good things in my life. First and foremost, I am thankful for the Gospel, The Good News of Jesus Christ “for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).  "Salvation for everyone who believes".  It is only a zero-sum game for those who choose to make it so.


My wife, Kayla, is certainly at the top of my good things list.  She is the one who makes everything else in my life better.  But like all good things, they don’t come easy, and they take time.  That would certainly apply to our marriage.  I am no day at the beach yet she still loves me.


Next would be health.  After a couple of scares last year, I recognize how good it is to be healthy again.  Of course, the years along with some bad habits and poor decisions can take their toll.  But I am in pretty good shape now for the shape I’m in.  


And I recognize the good of working.  That I am still engaged in work I can pursue full-time and do reasonably well at my age is a very good thing.  And the team we have at High Road Partners makes that all possible.


I recognize the good of being blessed financially.  By the grace of God, I’ve had some financial success in my career and the very good fortune to be born in the right place, at the right time to the right people.I have more money than I need and certainly more than I deserve.  (And I do realize that some would say that’s a bad thing.)


I recognize the good of The United States of America while still acknowledging the bad of slavery and the treatment of Native Americans.  I also recognize the bad history of denying constitutional freedoms to so many of our citizens.  I recognize that this nation is not perfect and has never been perfect.  But to be sure, it beats anything coming in second place.


Hakarat Ha’tov, “recognizing the good”.  At Thanksgiving, it’s worth a try. We might even start to see some good in those with whom we disagree.