“Be the change you want to see in others.”
I have often used this Gandhi quote in presentations as it has a powerful message behind it. I have also tried to behave in accordance with the sentiments of the quote. But lately I’ve found myself lagging in this department and sitting back expecting others to change or at the very least, realize they should.
It all came to a head last week as I headed to town to complete some errands. It was a foul weather day with winds and a lot of rain and I decided to break from the driving around to grab a cup of coffee. As I awaited the steaming brew that would bring some brief respite from the cold I saw an older gentleman in a wheelchair, who was struggling to get his rain gear on over his body and the chair. Those immediately near him ignored his repeated efforts and grunts and, I must confess, I did as well, as I made my way to a table. He continued to struggle and I kicked myself for not responding sooner. I approached him and asked if he could use some assistance. He smiled and said yes and then explained what I could do to help. It took less than thirty seconds and he zipped out into the rain while I returned to my seat with many sets of eyes on me.
I resumed my list of tasks but could not get my mind off of what had just occurred and why I had initially chosen to ignore a fellow human being who needed minimal assistance. I pride myself on being a connector and genuinely enjoy meeting people. I didn’t need convenient excuses; I needed to get back to what I believe in. As I was pondering the recent events while walking through a busy mall, I saw a woman struggling with numerous boxes, headed for the exit. She managed to get the door open and headed to her vehicle, which was parked next to mine. I saw her try to balance the load while getting her car trunk open and asked if I could help. She smiled and said thanks, but she was fine. She followed up with letting me know that the boxes were empty and how much she appreciated that chivalry was not dead. I wished her a good afternoon and continued on my way with a renewed sense about the importance of reaching out.
I share these two situations not to highlight my good deeds (in fact, I have gotten away from doing these simple things) but as a reminder to myself of the importance of modelling the behavior. I received three great gifts that day – two wonderful smiles of appreciation, and one excellent lesson about the power of one. I didn’t want to focus on what others were or were not doing, I just wanted to do. In the doing, I found the being. And that’s the greatest gift we can share.