Monday, April 15, 2024

Time Out

 

Two months ago I wrote about the struggles I’d been having trying to sleep while dealing with a stubborn upper respiratory virus.  I thought I was just about over the sickness and noted how God had used this challenge to draw me closer to Him. 

 

As it turns out God wasn’t finished with the lesson.  I did not get over it and eventually ended up in the ER diagnosed with atypical pneumonia (aka walking pneumonia.)  The past few weeks have been challenging.  Lots of coughing and spitting… and even less sleep.  I’ve been unable to work or do much of anything other than lay around.  But with medication and time, we finally seem to be getting over it.  I hesitate to say that too loudly for it has  been 1 step forward and 2 steps back since the beginning of the year.  But my vitals are all looking good and I am actually getting some sleep. The cough has settled down and my lungs are clear.  I am weak and wrung out but feeling better and regaining strength. 

 

So what have I learned?  How about be careful what you pray for?  I’ve never had much patience and it’s always been something I prayed for.  But I didn’t really make much of an effort to become more patient.  I think God finally said, let’s answer these prayers for patience with a long, painful time out.  And I must admit, it’s got my attention.  I’ve always been a hard-charger, even in my old age.  I’ve enjoyed good health to the point of taking it for granted. I believed that as long as I ate right, got some exercise and a bit of sleep, I could handle just about anything.  I thanked God for my good health, but I probably took too much credit for it.  And as long as I could keep pushing myself, results would always be more important to me than patience…or people. 

 

These last three and half months have humbled me.  I have come to realize how my lack of patience is just another form of selfishness.  When a person thinks first of their self and what they want to accomplish, it doesn’t leave much room for patience.  Your priorities become work and results…right now.

 

I suppose it remains to be seen what I do with this lesson.  Old habits are hard to break.  Do I return to the old pattern of “me first”?   Or, do I stop and put others first for a change?   God is watching.




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.