Day 44:  Breathe deeply. It’s time to bridge the GAP. Whenever you discover a GAP in a relationship, whether that relationship is personal, professional, or brought to your front door by circumstances beyond your control, you can look at the GAP as a conflict or opportunity.

Each challenge we face, offers us an opportunity to grow stronger from the inside out. Here are three challenges we will face this Thanksgiving: (1) The arrival of guests or strangers at our door. (2)  What we will eat and with whom. (3) The return of Black Friday: a boon for business and an equal opportunity for conflict for every shopper seeking bargains. 

In the same way a personal health crisis can divert our attention away from whatever else we were doing in our lives, to  focus us on our own health needs,  the arrival of the end-of-the-year holiday season focuses our attention on relationships. It’s a time for close encounters of the “unfamiliar kind” with family and strangers who may not  look like you, think like you, or act like you. 

 Welcome or not, this Thanksgiving, we are all family. We go by the common name: humanity.

Whether our ancestors were pilgrims arriving in wooden boats on unfamiliar shores; long suffering pilgrims arriving in safe harbors who were viewed as strangers, even as invaders, by the local natives…,

Whether we arrived as survivors of fires, tsunamis, hurricanes or other climate driven changes,   and circled our cars or tents into tiny “pop up” communities in the parking lots of a local business like Walmart just days before Black Friday…,

Whether we are a caravan of migrants, and the GAP we are facing is the bridge that spans the distance between the borders of Mexico and America, its a good time to remember – on both sides of the border – that at CORE, we are humankind.

Challenging times can bring out the best or the worst in humanity.

Here’s an example: In 1995, I ran a news service on the Internet that identified problems and put various solutions up to a public vote. At the time, the cities of Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose were facing a similar crisis: a rising homeless population.

As we reported at the time: Seattle addressed the problem directly:  homeless people were transported to the boundary of KING County and asked to leave. San Francisco flexed the muscle of its police force to drive the homeless out of Golden Gate Park.

With an eye to the future, San Jose provided a different solution that was voted #1 on Votelink. San Jose tackled the problem of homelessness, people camping out in abandoned buildings, by renovating the buildings into welcoming, affordable living spaces. The formerly homeless became a new workforce for Silicon Valley.

As we countdown the days to the New Year, it’s a good time to remember this perennial truth: For answers to life’s biggest challenges, look within.

You have all the knowledge you need within you to transform your world. Isn’t it about time that we – all of us – used our natural instinct for creativity and innovation to design a world – with sustainability in mind – that works for everyone?

Alexia Parks and Institute offers 1-Minute conflict resolution tools, research, and trait-based training programs for improved decision-making and organizational success. This blog is Day 44 of a series called Countdown: A 50-Day Personal Leadership Challenge. – Permission to reprint, with attribution, granted by Alexia Parks.