The Family First Approach to Work

Two weeks ago, I heard words one never wants to hear when answering a phone call from their mom. The moment I picked up, she said, “Danny, something’s wrong with your sister.” I promptly stopped what I was doing at work and became instantly invested in what her next words would be. She proceeded to tell me that my sister, Katy, was being flown to the hospital by way of an emergency helicopter because she was displaying stroke symptoms. She didn’t have much more information other than what she had just told me, so the phone call ended with me battling waves of uncertainty as I struggled to determine what I could do since I was 1,250 miles away in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Feeling helpless and wanting to take my mind off the situation while I awaited more information, I doubled down on work to try to occupy my mind. As one would expect, it made work almost impossible, and after some thought, I realized I needed to be with my family during this time. I immediately searched for last-minute flights to New York and was discouraged to see that the prices were hundreds of dollars more than they would be when purchased a few weeks ahead of time. Knowing that I couldn’t afford the high price at the moment, I decided to drive through the night, sleep for a few hours in my car, and arrive in NY within twenty-four hours.

With that plan in mind, I asked my boss if I would be able to work remotely for the week so I could be available for my family if they needed anything. He was more than understanding and said that wouldn’t be a problem. When he asked when my flight would be leaving, I told him I would be driving to NY instead of flying. He expressed some surprise at the idea of me driving there, but, not wanting to explain that it was an issue with money, I assured him it was the best way for me to get there.

I was heading back into my office to get things set for the trip when my boss called me back to say he had spoken with his wife, and they would be paying for my plane ticket to NY. I began protesting their generosity, but he cut in to say that my family needed me to have the energy to assist them when I arrived, which I wouldn’t have after driving for twenty hours.

The level of generosity floored me, and the gesture reminded me of the time a former boss sent me home to be with family when my grandma was dying. As I waited at the airport, I thought about how truly remarkable it is to have had multiple bosses who put family first. It indicates the deep familial ties that they have, and it has inspired me to display the same grace and understanding when I supervise others in the future.

I arrived in NY late Monday night and was relieved to hear that doctors had ruled out a stroke as the cause for my sister’s symptoms. The rest of the week was spent visiting with her and helping my family in any way I could. While the doctors are still running tests to determine what caused the problem, my sister’s symptoms have mostly cleared up. I am once again 1,250 miles from my family, so I pray that something like this doesn’t happen again. But if it does, I feel immensely blessed knowing that I work for someone who let me adjust my work schedule to be with family because he understood the value of us being together during such a difficult time.

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