I have been cutting grass ever since it was one of my chores back in middle school. After I mowed my lawn this past Saturday, I did my usual edging, weeded the flower beds, trimmed the hedges and blew the dirt and grass clippings off my driveway. I paused and smiled when I finished as I remembered my father’s constant nudging when I was a kid to always do the “little extra things” that made our yard stand out from the others in the neighborhood. He explained that doing a little extra work was often the margin between doing the bare minimum and true excellence.
As I did some reflecting earlier this morning over coffee, I thought of how my father’s sage advice applies to not only my professional life, but how I interact with my family, friends, clients and extended network. I think I tend to over index towards doing my best at work, but in this forced period of isolation brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic I recognize that I should be doing more to reach out and better serve those around me. A “little extra” is definitely required right now.
Do you feel the same way? I have long believed that although government can (and should) play an important role in times of crisis, a more meaningful and lasting impact will result when average people like you and me reach out and help folks in our families, communities and extended networks who may be struggling or simply needing kindness and encouragement. If we are not careful, this period of forced isolation can cause us to turn inward and be numb to the challenges of others. We have to avoid allowing this crisis to negatively impact our basic humanity and the moral obligation we have to help each other. Even if we ourselves are struggling, there is always something of value (tangible or intangible) we can offer to others.
As we ponder our opportunities to serve others with a “little extra” mindset this week and beyond, here are some ideas we might consider:
- Our closest family members, loved ones and friends may need to talk to us and express how they feel in this difficult time. Giving those closest to us an ongoing opportunity to express their fears, emotions and concerns for the future is important. It is also important for us to offer hope and encouragement that better days are ahead of us. I have had this exact discussion with my sons and a few friends over the last few days for which I am grateful.
- We all likely know people who are looking for employment. Times are tough right now and a shocking number of people are seeking new jobs. Can we proactively reach out to them and offer helpful advice and encouragement? Review their resumes? Make active introductions?
- A phone call to check-in is an easy gift we can share with a friend, family member or work colleague. Let’s make an effort each week to connect with folks in our networks to say hello. Sincerely desire to find out how they are doing. Be vulnerable enough to share how we are really doing. Offer to pray for them. Human beings need connection, community and to know someone really cares about them.
- Our local small businesses desperately need our help. As the economy opens back up, we must recognize the devastating economic impact local restaurants, small retailers and other local businesses in our communities have felt and do our best to give them our support. We can be safe and support their businesses with safeguards in place. They really need our help right now or they may not survive.
- A little appreciation goes a long way. Our doctors, nurses, first responders, farmers, truckers and all the people on the front lines of this battle are heroes and we should be incredibly grateful. I would encourage us to also show our appreciation and gratitude to all those who didn’t get to work from home the last several weeks and showed up for their jobs at Publix, Kroger, Whole Foods, CVS, Home Depot, Walgreens, gas stations and all the other essential businesses in our communities. Let’s thank them every chance we get for having the courage to report to work and take care of our needs.
- Our churches, synagogues and the non-profits we care about still need our support. Our places of worship and the non-profit causes we care about are still there and need our help. Financial contributions are important, but if that is not possible, think of other creative ways to help. For example, I am hosting a Zoom session for the founder of one of the non-profits on whose board I serve to have him share a presentation to my network on a relevant/timely topic. His organization gains exposure and my network hears a helpful message.
To be fair, all of us may understandably fit into the category of needing support and encouragement right now. This is a very tough time for our country and the world. But, in my experience there is something cathartic about serving others that is both healing and helpful in a reflective way back to us. We gain by giving. We are served by serving.
I will be working harder to better serve others and look beyond the confines of my forced home isolation today and in the days that follow. The suggested ideas above are a good place to start and I am hopeful other ideas and opportunities will emerge as well. I can do more and I will.
Who will benefit from you “doing a little extra” today?