I used to be an independent IT consultant. I helped small and medium businesses identify, install, and maintain IT solutions that facilitated their business mission. Much of this was “head work.” I solved people and technical puzzles. (People puzzles? Be honest — does your company have more problems with computers or the people that use them?) The work was also hands-on technical. I once had a server crash that shut down a multi-million dollar greeting card designer and distributor.
I was highly dedicated to solving my client’s problem and, long story short, I worked on that crashed server over night and into the next morning. I had been working for about 20 hours with only a couple of short naps when my client, Jerome, arrived the next morning. He said, with a very rested tone in his voice, “How’s it going Scott?” I was not very rested and was indeed very stressed. It was a horrible feeling seeing all these people arrive to work, but still not able to access their programs and data. I gave Jerome a report on what I had done — I had worked through the night, trying Plan A, and then Plan B, etc. I was very apologetic and Jerome saw that I was very concerned for the company and his people.
Jerome smiled, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “Scott, relax. It’s just greeting cards.”
Just greeting cards. Just greeting cards! No one was sick. No one was missing. No one was injured or dying. As the significance of “it’s just greeting cards” sank in, I relaxed, got back to work, and had a solution later that morning.
Jerome’s words helped me mentally relax and think more clearly, but those words did not magically spawn a solution to the technical problem. What he taught me with four words was an important life lesson that I still struggle to implement. The life lesson is that we should always put challenges into perspective. Jerome helped me to see that there are really just two categories of priorities: people/relationships and things.
People and relationships are clearly the more important priority. People and relationships are eternal. What we invest in people and relationships has an eternal impact. Things are temporary. Things are merely tools that have the potential to enhance people and relationships through good stewardship. Once, Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is. Or, put another way, he was asked, “What is most important?” His answer was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”
People and relationships.
Think about the last time you were up all night working on a problem, or terribly upset about some issue, or arguing with someone at home or work.
Were you focused on people and relationships — or greeting cards?
The next time you are stressed about something, ask yourself, “Is this just greeting cards?” What are you really investing in? People and relationships, or things?