Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day—or week— as I call it in my house, because my children have a few days off this week. I do have a favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I hope you were able to enjoy an extra day off this week and do something you truly love.

How do you think I spent my holiday? Watching hockey, of course! My youngest son’s team was playing in a tournament all weekend that included games being played inside and outside. Yes, they played outside in temperatures as low as -3 degrees in Chicago! Even though we didn’t win our final game of the tournament, it was a great team effort and a very exciting game. The opposing team tied the score with just 12 seconds left in regulation to force the game into overtime. It was a heartbreaker for our boys (and the parents) as we went on to lose in overtime, but they learned a valuable lesson about hard work. They had lost to the same team the day earlier by a score of 7-0! I certainly think our boys, coaches and parents had plenty to cheer about with two games that had such different outcomes.

As I watched my son and his team skate this past weekend, I started to think this most likely will be the last year of travel hockey for many of them. My family has been at it since my oldest was in fourth grade, so that means 13 years and three boys later, I will no longer be traveling every weekend to watch hockey! You can imagine how many miles I have put on my vehicles during the past 13 years—I don’t even want to know the number. I do wish I knew then what I know now about kids and team work, and what’s really important.

Last Friday night at our Wine About Winter event at Blueberry Haven, a fellow hockey dad stopped in and asked me how the season was going so far. I looked at him and said, “You know, it’s crazy how you look at your kid’s season when he’s your youngest and this isn’t your first rodeo.” I explained that his season is going well. They started out winning most of their games, but lately they have been in a bit of a slump—16 losing games in a row, to be exact! Fortunately, they won their last two games, so it looks like the pendulum is swinging back the other way. Of course, this conversation was Friday night—before their weekend performance.

I was right! Throughout the weekend, they worked more like a team, and I could see them gaining more confidence as the tournament progressed. My son’s team has two young men as coaches. At age 25 and 26, I am sure they have plenty of other exciting things they could be doing instead of hanging out with a bunch of 14-year-olds for an entire weekend. Did I mention both coaches have darling girlfriends? But, they continue to work with our boys, giving up their free time to help them become better players.

I would say the young coaches are figuring out the boys and the whole coaching gig little by little as we get further into the season. It’s a work in progress, and the boys are learning to work with each other and capitalize on each other’s talent—or lack of talent sometimes. At the tournament, I was explaining to my son that a team is much like a staff of employees. You have to figure out who is good at each task and not so great at other jobs. And you have to use others or yourself to step in and help with what needs to be done—whether it’s on the ice or in a business.

I continued to explain that it’s like the kid on the team who doesn’t pass to anyone. The solution is to follow behind him, and when he shoots, be smart enough to capitalize on that and get his rebound. Or the line mate who doesn’t like the corner—bank it off the board for him to get it. I told him that sometimes that’s how it works at my store, and I just have to use my employees’ strengths in a different way. As I was talking to my son, a dad was listening in on my conversation, and he said, “Well, heck, I’d fire those employees if they didn’t do what I wanted them to do.” I smiled at him and said, “You probably don’t have to pay minimum wage for your employees.” He looked at me and laughed, as if to say, “touché!”

I challenge all of you to celebrate each other’s differences, strengths and weaknesses. Let’s help those who may need some help, even if they don’t think the same as you. Remember, we all have something to contribute in this world.

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