My middle brother, Doug, and I grew up together about 7 years ahead of the birth of our youngest brother, Ken. Doug and I were two years apart in school and chronologically, we are 21 months apart in age – I’m older. We each had our own friendships and I was the more serious one. Doug had much more fun than I did and that continued when we were both in college.
I kept my head down and went to the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois – but Doug went to a private school where he developed many friendships and had a much better time in school than I did. Dad was diagnosed with cancer during the week of my finals and, having been raised the way I was, I believed it was my responsibility to provide for Mom and my two younger brothers.
Even though I wanted to be a surgeon, I gave up my dreams of medical school and took the business approach to life. Thankfully, Doug was able to go on and eventually became a fantastic doctor and surgeon – while my career took an entirely different path – dedicated to finding jobs for people, consulting and eventually attending seminary.
So, for most of our careers, Doug and I have lived in entirely different worlds. Fifteen years ago, I ended up doing quite a bit of consulting in the healthcare space and, finally, for the first time in almost 40 years, Doug and I crossed paths on a professional level two years ago. Since then, I have consulted to his team, as well as to other area medical groups, and every month I have the pleasure of traveling to stay with him at his home during my time near Chicago.
These past several years have been special to both of us. For the first time, we have seen each other in our professional spaces and we have come to respect each other even more than we did before – if that is even possible. And when we spend time together after the workday is over, it is as natural as it can be. We fall into the rhythms that we had growing up together and still laugh and joke about decades past.
Our personal time together is punctuated with interruptions when Doug is on call and has to go deliver a baby or perform an emergency surgery. Likewise, I never know when I will get a call from one of the people I mentor or am called in to mediate a team issue – helping to set strategic direction for the next year or two with the senior administration of a hospital or medical device manufacturer.
In other words, we started our careers together and now, four decades later, we find ourselves once again working together in the twilight of our professional lives. Who knows, maybe we will even go out and retire together. It is strange to realize that we are so familiar with each other yet our specialities are so different – and we defer to each other when we have discussions about the various areas of healthcare and patient satisfaction initiatives. It’s very special.
And each morning, before we head to the hospital for the beginning of the day, we have coffee together in his family room, much the same as Dad and our Uncle Vernon did half a century ago when our uncle stayed at our home during his visits to Chicago. I just don’t think that it occurred to either Doug or me that we would be recreating history to such an extent.
I’m sure that as we get older, we will start to look at what the next phase of our lives will look like. But for now, things couldn’t be much better for either of us. As elder statesmen in our respective fields, life is good. Our verse for this evening comes from the book of Genesis. Moses, the author gives us the words of God when he tells us, in Genesis 4:9, “Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
While this story concerned the animosity between two brothers, that doesn’t apply to us. But I still think of being my brother’s keeper. In fact, that goes for both of my brothers. I am sure that Doug feels the same way about me. We would do whatever we could for each other. And there is a strange sort of comfort in that knowledge. I wish we had matured to this point when we were younger.
My encouragement tonight is that God wants us to take care of our families and do everything we can to have the healthiest families possible. My prayer is that we will all work a little harder to honor the people nearest and dearest to us – ever mindful that it may not always be this way as life continues and the older generations give way to the younger folks coming up to take our places and lead our families through the next several generations. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…