We stand in a tumultuous time.  there is upheaval in the world, in our nation, and often in our community.  There is political acrimony and financial uncertainty.

It is a combination of forces that we in the U.S. have not experienced for several decades, and to this degree, in several generations.

In the midst of all this, life goes on. 

We get up each day, raise our families and run our businesses.

While we are impacted by the ongoing crisis in many ways, from rising costs, to more regulations and other business challenges; in a way, the issues at hand can seem divorced from us.

We look at the decisions being made as someone else’s responsibility.  Someone else’s fault.

We are just here, running our little business.  What do the problems of the world have to do with us?  What can we possibly do about them?

The other day I was watching a clip of Ronald Reagan’s last presidential address.

When Reagan first came into office, we were in the middle of another dark time.  Unemployment was high, gas prices as well as everything else was skyrocketing, the term stagflation was coined.  Our economy was really a mess, much like today.

To add to that, we were in the middle of the Cold War with Russia with a constant fear that a button would be pushed and a nuclear World War III would begin.  Not to mention the fanatical Ayatollah calling for the death of all infidels and the 52 Americans who were being held hostage in Iran.

I was just at an age when I was becoming aware of what was going on in the world beyond my immediate circle and I remember it as a scary and dark time . . . much like today.

Regardless of what you think of Reagan’s politics and fiscal policy, the thing he brought to American was encouragement.

He believed that it was Americans who made the U.S. the greatest nation the world has seen.

In his farewell address, he attributed the success and prosperity that the U.S. experienced in his two terms in office to the industry of individual Americans, not his policies or initiatives.  He credited Americans, not the government, with creating 19 million new jobs and propelling the U.S. out of the recession of the late ‘70’s and early  80’s.

I think that is what we have lost, that belief that “We the People” are the ones that make the difference.

It’s not even a matter of just job creation and economics either, it’s about building a community.

When I think about our local community in Kingwood and the Lake Houston area and who makes things happen, it’s not the big corporations with huge budgets, it’s the small business owners and individuals.

it’s Rick pulling out his BBQ and feeding hundreds of his friends and neighbors.  It’s Tony turning Town Center into a community gathering place five times a year.  it’s the trifecta of Karen, Donna, and Gwendolyn seeing a need and filling it.  It’s Suzanne and Ellen with a heart to help each in their own way.  It’s a group taking their love of nature and sharing that beauty with the community.

I could go on.

When things need done, they step up, dig in, and and they make things happen.

That is what makes our community special.  It is not government programs or legislation that create that, it is about individuals stepping up and answering the call.

That is the way it is here.  If you are reading this and live somewhere else, I’m pretty confident that if you stop to think about it, that the same thing is true in your community.

Who are the people that donate to the community events, the school carnivals, the charity fundraisers, and the sports teams.  Who is it that is stepping up and making a difference in your community.

I’m sure that you will se the same thing that I see here.   It is the same people, small business owners and individuals, that step up over and over again.

Maybe you are one of the community builders, the World Changers.

If so, I want to give you a phrase from one of my favorite verses, 1 Chronicles 28:20:

“Be strong and of good courage.”

The words in the original Hebrew mean to be “steadfast and single minded” and to “fix upon or to seize.”

I’m not an economist, but I think we still have some rough waters ahead.  Sometimes circumstances can seem overwhelming, like you have to do more and more with less and less.

Persevere, be strong and of good courage, because your actions do matter and they do have an impact on others.

You are making a difference.

If you aren’t one of those people yet, if you are someone who is focused solely on your own business and affairs, here is a thought I would leave you with.

You may think that you’re “just” a plumber, or a hair stylist, or an accountant, or a retail store manager, or whatever it is that you do.

There is no “just.”

You play an important role in your community.  You can make a difference.

In your business you impact people on a daily basis, even if it is something as simple as a smile and encouraging word for a customer as they check out.

Your business can play an important role in your community and be someone that people know that they can count on for honesty and fair dealing.  It may sound basic, but it is not a small thing.

If someone has a car that needs repaired, they want to know that the shop they go to is going to tell it straight and isn’t going to pad what needs to be done.  Of if someone needs a plumber on a holiday weekend or their air conditioning goes out in one of our record breaking hot Houston days, they want to know they can trust the business they call.

As a business owner, you not only create jobs, but you have an impact on the lives of the people you employ.

My very first job working for someone else was at the local Dairy Queen when I was 16.  Some of the things I learned were:

  • How to multitask.
  • How to deal with difficult people with a smile.
  • That it didn’t matter what my coworkers did, I was responsible to do my best.
  • To look for what needed to be done and do it without being asked.
  • If there was a task I didn’t like, to learn to do it really well.

The DQ wasn’t a glamorous job, but I learned from it.  And I learned from every job and every boss I had.

Honestly, not all of those lessons were positives one.  From one, I learned that there is occasionally sexism in the workplace and that equal efforts doesn’t always result in equal pay.  But even that in itself was a lesson for it taught me that it was my responsibility to go out and find a job situation that was more just.

They all had an impact on me and I’ve brought something from every job I’ve had to what I do today.

What is the impact you are having on your employees?

Are they leaving you a better person than when they started?  Are they learning that ethics and fair dealing pay off and are rewarded or are they learning to cut corners and skate by?

Is the example you are setting, both in the way you treat customers and the way you treat them, congruent with your expectations for them?

You also make a difference in your community.  As I said at the beginning of this post, we may think of the huge corporations with the big money as the ones that matter, but it is the small businesses that make the big difference.

Are you doing your part to make a difference in your community?  Are you investing back in the community that supports your business and helping it grow or are you simply taking what you can get?

Are you pitching in and helping in community efforts or do you stay holed up in your shop absorbed in your own “stuff?”

If your business closed tomorrow, would anyone besides you and your employees care or would your former customers just go to the competitor down the street?

In this struggling economy we find ourselves in, I’ve seen some great businesses go under.  Some I didn’t see much of other than an ad here and there.

But there have been some, one in particular, that was just heartbreaking to see close.  The owners were such a part of the community, always giving and always supporting.  When that business closed it wasn’t just their loss, it was our loss.  The community was diminished because that business wasn’t a part of it any longer.

All Congress can do is moderate outcomes, the power to change comes from us.

“We the People.”

You as a business owner have the power to impact and change lives:  for your customers; for your employees, and for your community.

Are you?

Are you doing what you can to make a difference?  If not in money, in time?

If you have your health and a way to make an income, you are blessed.  Are you giving back?  Are you doing your part to bring light and relief where you can?

The next time you are tempted to complain, to blame this party or that politician for the economy and the rest of the issues we face today, step back and ask yourself, “What am I doing to make a difference?”  and “How is my business making an impact?”

Because the change comes from you.

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