November 23rd 2015 1 comment so far
While I was growing up, my mom taught my siblings and me to leave every space better than we found it. It wasn’t enough to clean up the messes we made in the kitchen or in our friends’ and neighbors’ homes—we ought to straighten up the pillows we mussed a little prettier than they were before or scrub the counters we spilled crumbs on a little shinier than we found them. It’s a mark of appreciation to our hosts—and it instills character in ourselves.
This principle has stuck with me for years. But the side of it that my mom has always lived out so well that I often forget to apply is not only to leave spaces better than I find them, but people, as well.
All of my life, I have marveled at my mom’s ability to leave people better than she finds them. From the cashier at the grocery store to the grumpy customer she assists at work, she draws the best of out of everyone she meets. Scowls turn to smiles, and criticism turns to praise—with hardly any effort at all.
But for me, it is not easy—or so I think.
Although I strive to keep a cheerful disposition, I am not very outgoing. I don’t strike up random conversations with strangers easily. I am reserved. I am wrapped up in my own thoughts. I am too busy. How can someone like me improve the lives of the people I contact every day?
It’s really not that difficult. No matter how shy or outgoing we are, each one of us can find a way to show kindness to others. Here are five easy ways all of us can leave people better than we find them:
The simplest, easiest way to demonstrate kindness is to smile. It costs you nothing and produces endorphins that make you happy in return.
Compliment something you like. Say “please” and “thank you” often. Call people “ma’am” and “sir.” Greet people with a warm “good morning” or “good evening” and ask them how their day is going. You don’t have to be a great conversationalist. Common pleasantries are rare these days—a warm greeting alone could transform someone’s day.
Seize opportunities to commit acts of kindness. Hold a door. Let another person go ahead of you in line. Pick up the litter you would otherwise step over. Return your grocery cart to its proper place. Pick up your neighbor’s trash can that has fallen over into the street. Action touches people more than any amount of words could ever do.
I have one of those faces that screams, “tell me about your problems.” For some reason, people like to confide in me, even complete strangers. The kindest thing I can do for them is listen. I don’t have to give them advice. I don’t have to share my opinions. I simply have to look them in the eyes, nod, and extend a little understanding.
The first step to doing for others is forgetting ourselves. While some people lack an appropriate dose of self-awareness, the majority of us are brimming over with too much of it. In this age of entitlement, we are conscious only of our thoughts, our desires, our problems, our responsibilities. We rarely pause to think about the people around us, let alone seek to improve their lives.
We all have problems. We all hurt and carry burdens no one else can see. But the truth is, the easiest way to overcome our own problems is to stop looking at them in the mirror and start looking around at others. Leave your worries and troubles at home and focus on helping the people around you. When you return, you will discover that you have forgotten about most of your troubles by helping someone else forget theirs.
Find opportunities to help others in our church and community through Project Serve. Click here to visit the website.
This holiday season, let’s strive to leave every person we meet better than we found them. After all, the best way to improve your life is to improve the life of another.
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10
Written by Amy Hyles
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