“60 to 0 in 3.5 Seconds”

What do you think of when you hear the word “family”?  My first thought is of my wife and two boys.  I then think of my parents, siblings, in-laws and such down the line.  It doesn’t take me long and I start to add a long list of friends that I have grown quite close to.  This list is loaded with the names of Kansas community bankers that I built relationships with over the years and whom I really enjoy spending time with.  Granted this list isn’t “blood” or is it?  I have shared many experiences with friends through the years that in a lot of ways bring us closer than I would consider a significant number of people whom are truly related to me.  I have fought for my life (very literally) side by side with some friends, shared and supported some while they were going through significant events in their lives as well as having some walk along beside me during some of my trials.  So, is “family” constrained by blood or marriage?  Or, is it defined by relationship?  I would make a very strong argument that it is defined as those individuals whom you consider significant in your life and worthy of choosing to spend your time with.  Given the previous definition, I believe that you could make a good argument that our states community bankers could, and should, be considered a family.  I can give example after example of how one banker has come to the aid of another for no other reason than they want to help a friend.  Not for financial gain or competitive reason, just to lend a helping hand to another member of the community banking family.  Proving my point is easy, simply take a moment and look around when you attend any of our CBA events.  Watch as banker after banker greets each other.  It is extremely obvious that you are more than just acquaintances, you are friends, and in many instances more like family.  Even newcomers are welcomed into the group and quickly surrounded by bankers wanting to get to know them.  Our events are loaded with opportunities for bankers to socialize with other bankers, and those opportunities are consistently seized and utilized.  This is a family!

Every now and then something unexpected occurs that forces you to take a step back and evaluate your life and relationships.  Just such an event happened to me in early August this year.  To make a long story as short as possible; I was traveling home from a motorcycle trip (my biannual trip to Sturgis with a group of friends) when the unexpected happened.  I was just over 500 miles into the approximately 700 mile trip home when I experienced what it feels like to go from 60 mph to 0 mph in 3.5 seconds.  I was riding south on I-29 just outside Council Bluff, Iowa, in the middle of a major construction project where traffic was moving along at around and four lanes had been shrunk down to two.   I topped a small rise and found myself face to face with a very big decision.  Something had caused the traffic to stop abruptly with cars skidding to a full stop.  Several vehicles left the road in hopes of avoiding collisions by taking to the ditch.  I had only a heartbeat to make my decision.  Brake, attempting to keep my bike upright and risk being impaled on the car directly in front of me, or, force my bike down on the interstate and use it to shield me from the collision with the car.  I choose the later and took my bike down.  Needless to say I survived the ordeal.  A little bruised and a lot beat up, but I survived.  Walking away from an accident as violent as this was due in large part to the protective gear that I was wearing.  I had on my leather chaps, riding boots and most importantly my helmet.  I have no doubt that without proper gear and most importantly, my helmet, I wouldn’t be writing this article.  I also contribute a significant portion of my survival to the planning that I have put into dealing with just such a scenario.  I have spent hour upon hour thinking about how to react when confronted with unforeseen challenges.  I am constantly looking for potential threats and problem solving how to deal with that threat if the need arises.  I don’t want you to think that I only see threats; I just want to have a contingency plan in place if one surfaces.

How does this tie in with the family discussion?  Very simply, when I was sliding down the interstate caught underneath my bike, I didn’t once think about the office, work or all of those unfinished home projects.  The only thought that went through my mind was that I didn’t want to leave my wife without a husband and my boys without a father!  Period, end of thought!

In the time that has elapsed since my little adventure I have been slowly healing (my Harley didn’t fare so well, it’s totaled), spending a lot of my free time with family and friends.  Many of our community banking family have checked on my welfare and given advice on how to avoid such an incident in the future (but yes, I do plan to continue riding).  I have also been doing a lot of thinking about the CBA, our mission in this State and my role in leadership here.  I am more convinced than ever that we play a vital role in the protection and preservation of our community banking world in Kansas.  As I consider all of the Kansas community bankers that I know and have built relationships with, I have come to the realization that we (CBA) play an extremely vital role.  CBA is a major player in the connecting together of our community banking family and this is something that should never be taken lightly or overlooked.  Family is more than just being biologically related, it is about sharing common interest and ideas that over time bond us together.  Family is about truly caring for and about one another. This describes the Kansas community banking family that I know.

I am proud and honored to be a part of the Kansas community banking family.  This is not a new revelation; I knew this before my accident.  So, what did I learn from my 3.5 second ride?  Two very important truths:  First – That when faced with a real life or death situation, what is most important in your life is what you think of.  For me, that was my family.  Second – That it really hurts to hit the highway at 60 mph.