We went up north for Memorial Day weekend--that's what people do around here. And on the way, I noticed a billboard that said, "If you could improve a life, would you?" As we got closer, I saw that it was an ad for the Shriner's Hospital, but that doesn't really matter. You know, my immediate reaction was, sure! I mean who, besides a narcissist or sociopath, wouldn't? But how often are we given the opportunity to improve a life and we decline? I think we think that we have to do something huge to improve a life, but honestly, for me, sometimes all it takes to give me a lift is kindness from a stranger: a smile or kind word, or someone standing a few extra seconds by the door to hold it open for me and my stroller. Sometimes it's a letter in the mailbox, or an email at the right time. And each day that I have a positive outlook improves my life.
My point is, you never know what the ripple effects of your actions will be. Each moment of the day, you could potentially improve a life, or, on the flip side, degrade a life. So I think we should be aware of those opportunities and seize them, always.
I think that the most important lives I need to be improving are those of my children. So often, I get caught up in what they're doing wrong, rather than noticing when they do things right. I've heard that it takes someone saying seven (seven!) positive things to a person to off-set just one negative comment. Our jobs as parents are to raise our children to independence--a big part of that is teaching them how to behave in the world, and so much of that teaching seems to be negative. It's so hard to balance the correction, which we know they need, with the unconditional love and praise that we also know they need. I really, really don't want my kids to grow up thinking that they can do nothing right. I guess the key is, though, to always correct from a place of love rather than anger. Unfortunately, I'm not God, so that's often difficult for me. But who else in this world has as much of a vested interest in my children feeling loved and appreciated and accepted than me? Who else is going to do that, but me?
Now, obviously that sign was an appeal for us to send money, not necessarily an appeal for us to be nice to each other, and that's a big thing, too. Money. There was an article in our paper recently about giving, saying that the poorest 1/5 of Americans give away the highest percentage of their incomes. One of those poorest people said something interesting. He said that poor people give more money away because they are less worried about money. Isn't that crazy? Well, not really. Remember when Jesus said (talking about money) that man cannot serve two masters? The more money we have, the more concerned we are about losing it--money becomes, to many of us, an idol--our source of comfort and security. For where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also, and all that. We say we can't afford to give to every cause that comes along asking for money, but look at us! We are so prosperous. We are so blessed, with so much more than we need, and we can't afford to give a little bit away?
I say again, you never know what the ripple effects of your actions will be, what effect your little gift of surplus will have on someone's life, but when we are presented with those opportunities, our answer should always be a big, resounding yes! I will improve a life.