Plane cockpit

Tony: There is a reason the flight attendant asks you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.

This past Thanksgiving was an incredible, yet humbling experience for me.

We loaded up the freezer truck with thousands of turkeys due to the generosity of so many people. Distributing those turkeys and Thanksgiving food boxes was an amazing experience.

But by Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I was wiped out. That night I chewed out the manager at Bass Pro Shops. On Thanksgiving morning, I didn’t wish the kitchen crew a happy Thanksgiving. I yelled at them for the music they were playing on the radio. I even had words with a community guest who was sneaking food out of our dining room. It wasn’t one of my better days. 

Someone said that it revealed my character deficiencies, and Jesus never handled people that way. I disagreed. He did call people a bunch of blood-sucking vipers. That wasn’t good Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

I chatted with a clinician who agreed it wasn’t a character issue. As we both discussed, my adrenaline was depleted. I wasn’t even running on fumes. My tank had no gas and not even any fumes. It was empty. 

I wanted to know, “How do you go the distance when you are totally exhausted and not get cranky with people.” I didn’t want to be Moses who wandered the wilderness for 40 years and then chewed off the head of the children of Israel by striking the rock instead of speaking to the rock. Water still flowed but God wasn’t pleased with him. In fact, he was banished from entering the promised land.

I will confess to you I am a workaholic. I don’t drink, do drugs or cheat on my wife. There is a sense of relief that comes over me when I get into the office. In fact, I took the strength-finders test twice and it confirmed my top strength is responsibility. I would say, “Super Responsible.” 

I also face the reality that my 95-plus-year-old mother who lives with us has Alzheimer’s and requires 24-hour care. To get away, even for three days, is a monumental scheduling task of home health aides and family members to be with her overnight.

The Serenity Prayer begins with, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Reality is, I won’t be able to do an overnight vacation. Rather than complain about it, I will take some “staycations.” I looked at each quarter and scheduled time off. I have to do it now before people get on my calendar. Whether I go to a park and fly a kite or go to the lake for the day and fish, it becomes a chance for me to take care of me, so I can help others (notice, I didn’t say take care of others). 

There is a reason the flight attendant asks you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you put it on your child. If you take care of yourself first, you’ll have the strength to take care of your loved one. If you put it on your child first, you may both die.

Let me ask you to pause before you get too far into 2019 and take a look at your calendar. Build in some time to recharge your batteries. Maybe you only have two weeks’ vacation. Use one to get away for a week. Use the other 5 days to take some long weekends. See if you can include holidays to maximize the time off. Be creative.

As my mother would say, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” 

I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well my friend.

The Rev. Tony Marciano is the president and CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. He is available to speak to your group. Go to and go to contact us – just ask for Pam. 


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