Keeping the relationship canteen full is more than just accumulating friends and acquaintances. The relationship canteen is filled by the richness of those relationships and the connectedness created through the friendships and family.
It is said that a person with friends is never truly alone and when your resilience is tested a full relationship canteen is proof of that statement.
In my life I am fortunate to be blessed with a wonderful marriage. My wife, Laura, is intelligent, caring, compassionate, supportive and beautiful. She is a fantastic mother and my best friend. Laura is absolutely supportive of me in everything that I do. No only my disaster response work but my every day life, my beliefs (even when she disagrees with them), my dreams, my goals, and even my desires. Laura and I share a relationship that is special and in modern society increasingly rare.
Because I strive for physical preparedness both in body and in resources we maintain family preparedness in the same realms. We have a family plan in the event of an emergency and each of my children, as well as Laura, are well versed in every aspect of that plan. I know that I can count on Laura to keep the family safe no matter where I may go, what kind of disaster I respond to, what may befall them in my absence, or even in the event that I should never be able to return home.
When I must call upon my resilience, I have a full relationship canteen. Not only does my marital relationship contribute to this reserve, to this relationship resilience, but I have similar relationships with each of my four children and with my mother. What is more, even though my father is now deceased, my relationship with him remains a source of relationship resilience. I know that he is proud of me in the work that I do.
This limitless source of renewing strength ensures that I am able to endure and ultimately overcome any challenge ahead of me.
But again relationships are a twoedged sword when it comes to resilience.
Several years ago my younger daughter Tiffany suffered challenges of her own and I was away to assist in response and recovery for a declared national disaster. As a result of Tiffany’s hospitalization my resilience was seriously compromised.
I was conflicted.
I was physically strong and physically prepared. I had all of the equipment and resources I needed to perform my disaster response duties. But the challenges facing somebody who I cared about caused my relationship resilience to suffer significantly. Rather than being a source of strength my need and desire to be home caring for my daughter sapped my strength. I was no longer sipping from my canteen of resilience. I was gulping deeply. My 40,000-gallon bathtub had sprung a leak.
The fact that I could do nothing even if I were at her side did not make a difference in how badly her needs affected my resilience. The fact that I would not even be allowed to be at her side in the first week of her hospitalization did not change the impact of her needs on my resilience.
Relationships are a two-edged sword for resilience but this does not mean that we should limit our relationships based on their potential impact. Quite to the contrary it means that we should expand our relationships. Make them as deep and rich as possible and share in providing for the resilience of those of whom we care most deeply. Are you growing relationships that fill your Canteen of Relationship Resilience?
(Excerpted from my lecture series and book: Avoiding Business Disasters: Lessons from the Disaster Field Office)