I’m sitting at the breakfast table of my grandmother’s house. The house hasn’t changed in the last 45 years and neither have the spirited debates that take place around the table. The table holds a unique power of neutrality for all those who sit around it. Anything can be discussed (politics, religion, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll) and all positions will be debated with civility.
A typical morning starts with my grandmother reviewing the University of Oklahoma sports scores in the Norman Transcript followed by the front page of the Oklahoman. At 95, she is still mentally sharp and even occasionally drives (except at night). Over endless cups of coffee she will discuss Kevin Durant’s three-point shooting, the latest political issue, and lately, a more trivial topic like who is the prettier first lady – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis or Melania Trump.
The debates are intelligent, respectful and full of opposing views. They are actually enjoyable because of this. At one point a somewhat eccentric great uncle joined the conversations and expressed his views which I thought were more than “out-there”. He was steadfast and committed to his positions. His unwavering views made the breakfast table discussion challenging and bordering on unpleasant. But our family listened, treated him with courtesy and worked towards a consensus. We did not expel him from the table, tell him he was crazy or resort to Republican/Democrat type infighting.
On this particular morning, after a brief conversation about the first ladies’ different kinds of beauty, our discussion turned more substantial, to expectations and needs vs. wants.
Realizing the difference between our needs and our wants is something most Americans don’t recognize simply because our needs have long been taken care of, my grandmother said. Thus we tend to focus on our wants. At 95 years old, my grandmother has decades of wisdom. It does seem that most of the issues debated in Washington are “wants,” which is when we have gridlock. When a true “need” arises, it seems Washington gets its act together. If you have ever spent time in the third world (excluding a resort) you will instantly realize the difference.
Clarifying needs and wants is often my first task with new clients followed by prioritizing them. I thought to myself “Does my Grandmother need anything?” We were at the breakfast table where anything could be discussed so I asked.
She said, “No. I have money for whatever I need.”
“Ok,” I said, “is there anything you want?”
“Yes. I want more politicians to realize that if we can build family consensus around my kitchen table, they can do the same thing. And there are certain first ladies we want, and others we need, and beauty has nothing to do with being a good first lady.”
“Gosh, Grandma, why don’t we just relocate all the kitchen tables and grandmothers to Capitol Hill?”
We had a good laugh.
And with that, we returned to the sports pages.