|By Dan Bobinski
With solemn seriousness, the following story is a gut-wrenching tragedy: Just this past week, a woman here in the Boise area forgot to drop off her two-month old child at day care on the way to work. The temperature that day reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. After work, as she drove to the day care center to pick up her child, she realized she hadn’t made the trip that morning. Quickly looking into the back seat, she saw the lifeless body of her child, still strapped into its child safety seat.
It’s gut-wrenching. The angst is too overwhelming for words.
Sadly, these incidents are not uncommon. This 2-month old child was the 25th youngster to die in such a fashion this year in the United States. In the past five years, 160 children have died while left unattended in vehicles.
My first thought after hearing about two-month old Kelly (last name withheld) was to question whether or not we have become too busy as a society. We are pressed to give our employer our all: Work hard! Climb the ladder! Put in extra hours! You’ve got to skip lunch or you become lunch.
Must we really?
Among the industrialized nations, workers in the United States take the least amount of vacation days per year. In fact, the average American takes only 10.2 vacation days per year, compared with 30 days of vacation for the average European. And it’s getting worse.
Stephanie Armour, writing in USA Today just two months ago, reports that “Nearly 50% of executives expect to make fewer vacation plans in 2003.”
Quoted in the article was Bob Rice, CEO of an Internet graphics firm. Rice says "No one can find the time for vacations. Our poor employees are working incredibly hard. Customers have gotten more demanding."
Additionally, Amour points to a May poll by Expedia.com, which found that “workers are taking 10% less vacation time this year than they did 12 months ago. Twelve percent report taking no vacation at all, and one in five say they feel guilty taking time off.”
Time to stop and think for a minute.
Perhaps our priorities are out of whack. Excessive work and no play affects our families, including how we raise our children. Excessive work takes time away from community activities, from helping neighbors, and from building quality friendships. It appears that too often, excessive work takes the time we need to live our lives.
It’s been said many times before, but how many people on their deathbed say “I wish I spent more time at the office?”
Not too long ago I had a conversation with an old friend who told me about a woman who lived on his street. He had known her for years. She was a successful businessperson who climbed the corporate ladder. Success was her goal, and successful she was – she retired as senior vice president of a large corporation, with plenty of victories and successes in her trophy case.
Yet this woman was so wrapped up in achieving corporate success that she never took time to build a family. And now, in her late 60’s, she confided in my friend that she felt betrayed by what she called “the cosmopolitan lie.” Sure, she had her retirement portfolio all set up and she had nieces and nephews and other extended family, but in essence, she was alone. She’d had several romantic relationships that had come and gone, but she had no one around that had shared any of her private life with her.
In essence, she had been too busy.
My heart was burdened when I heard of the sad tragedy regarding baby Kelly. I couldn’t say anything. I could only feel sad. Sad that as a society, we are taking work so seriously that we are neglecting life. We should be working to live, not the other way around.
Addendum: According to a study just released (June, 2003) by Jan Null of San Francisco State University, "every year dozens of children tragically die due to hyperthermia (heat stroke) after being left unattended in cars, trucks and vans. Hundreds of other children who survive suffer great bodily harm and these numbers do not include similar consequences to infirm adults or animals." I encourage people to read Null's recently released Study of Excessive Temperatures in Enclosed Vehicles. And never leave a child unattended in a vehicle - not even "for a few minutes."
© 2003 Dan Bobinski / Leadership Development. Dan Bobinski is President of Leadership Development. He can be reached at (208) 375-7606 or by Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.