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Something to Think About . . .
'8 Seconds of Humanity' Can Make a Difference
Isn't it Time to Consider the Way We Address Anger and Conflict?

by Jon A. Hayes, MTAP Executive Director

February 16, 2018 -- It's a slow news cycle in the accounting and tax industry, and that's probably a good thing as preparation schedules ramp up for "March Madness." But it's not a slow news cycle in our country as the 47th school shooting incident since January 1 claimed the lives of 17 innocent students and teachers earlier this week.

It was also a sad week for me since a childhood friend succumbed to pancreatic cancer, leaving a wife and three beautiful children behind. He was a recently retired battalion chief for the Lansing Fire Department and, at 51, he was working towards a degree in social work so he could continue helping people in his second career. He was mere credits short of the degree when the cancer spread, so Sienna Heights awarded him the degree based on his exemplary performance and his impact on his community.

Thank you, Sienna Heights. Rob Hecksel more than deserved that degree.

Anger is Consuming Us . . .

We have a growing problem in our country, and its not a problem based on a polarizing issue that many want us to believe. It's a problem of civility and a failure to accept compromise.

The last election cycle has ramped up ideological rage, and the "my way or the highway" mentality has stoked many of the violent outbursts we've witnessed. Our political parties have become so unbending in their ideologies that anyone who expresses a contradictory opinion is essentially banished from the ranks. It has muzzled us all to the point where only benign "politically correct" or party-approved vitriolic commentary is offered. It has paralyzed our elected officials to the point where they cannot even respond to a tragedy like this school shooting for fear of retribution from some donor or special interest group.

It has taken "compromise" completely off the table, leaving important issues unresolved as more innocent people pay the price for it.

I remember my dad telling stories about the Michigan Legislature in the 1960s when he served in then-Governor George Romney's administration. When a sensitive issue came before the Legislature, he said, both parties would passionately, and even sometimes angrily debate it on the chamber floor. Romney's staff would monitor the issue, assess prospects for resolution, and report to the governor that chances for an outcome were bleak. The governor would chuckle and tell them to be patient. The next day, after a late evening of cards (and possibly other libations) between members of both parties, the issue would come back on the floor and a consensus would be reached that gave everyone something but not everything they sought.

They compromised for the good of the citizens.

We rarely see that now, and when we do it is often met with surprise and public condemnation from one or both political parties.

We Can Slow This Trend . . .

This brings me back to Rob Hecksel. Rob lived by a mantra that he openly practiced without hesitation. He called it "8 Seconds of Humanity."

When he would stand in line at the grocery, he would turn to those in front and behind him and offer a compliment or wish them a good day. If he encountered someone who looked down on their luck, he would offer that compliment and provide an ear. As a fireman with connections, if he felt he could further help, he used his connections.

And he smiled . . . all the time . . . because he was happy.

He didn't push "8 seconds of humanity" on anyone, but he didn't shy away from suggesting it either. He was content if someone told him it was baloney or if they brushed him off with a "think about it" retort. But more often than not, people embraced it. It's something I have embraced and tried to honor with many more positive outcomes than rejections, and its something I will continue to do in honor of a man I admire.

If we all practiced "8 seconds of humanity" just once each day, I think the anger in our country could recede. I think it could open the door for more civil debate and potential compromise on important issues facing our country and our leaders.

I think it could, at the least, increase the number of smiles between friends and strangers, and that would be an excellent start.

What do you think?

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