“If everyone does one good thing today then the world will be happier place, if everyone does another good thing tomorrow the world can be changed.”
It’s a simple statement that challenges people to – you guessed it – do one good thing each day. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Not because I suddenly feel empowered to bestow goodness, in fact, just the opposite. I read this quote, wondered what I had done lately, and came up short. I say yes to too many things when I already have too many things to do. I also hate to say no. Thinking about doing one good thing each day led me to the realization that I owned it and needed to fix it.
We all have to-do lists. One item gets crossed off the top and three more are added to the bottom. The list fills up faster than we can check off even the most demanding tasks. Without realizing it, we have grown accustomed to being busy. It makes us feel productive but it also gets in the way of things that matter. The good news is we get to define the good things. There is no definitive list. We create our own.
“I’m too busy” is the most common reason people give for not doing even the smallest thing that does not come with a deadline or a demand. I say this all the time. The moment I realize it’s true is also the moment I realize I created it. Before we know it, working on our lives gets in the way of living in our lives.
I decided to get less busy. How hard can that be? Well, it’s harder than you might think. We get caught up in the things we have to do and the Good Thing remains an intention rather than an accomplishment. I have a long work commute. It is the perfect time to re-balance my list with the all good things I am going to do.
I’ll start with an anonymous favor or neighbor-in-need drive by. Over the weekend I can drop off a donation to the food pantry and make time to visit with an elderly friend who has been under the weather. I immediately feel empowered to be my best self; a person who unselfishly does something good for someone else. I can do this.
Let’s see how this plays out. It’s not hard to come up with a list. My church has a food pantry and they support a home for families in transition. Easy enough to make a donation or sign up as a volunteer…if I’m not too busy.
The closet has winter coats and jackets that can be sorted and donated as the polar vortex tightens its grip. Cup of Joe is an online opportunity to provide real coffee to our troops overseas. It requires nothing more than five minutes at my computer. If only I weren’t so busy.
There is a stack of mail in my office that needs to be forwarded to our son in Oklahoma. It’s been there since early January. I am going to do it as soon as I find a box because I want to include a framed picture. But first I need to bake him some cookies. Now I need a bigger box, which I’m certain I can find if I just had the time.
Oh yeah: I’m on a roll now. There’s no limit to the good things I can do. I am going to do every one of them as soon as I get un-busy. I am blinded by my own halo.
Small Things Make a Difference
Here’s a harsh reality. Good intentions don’t automatically become good deeds. Type A people like me can’t flip a switch and change–we have to start small. Since I am a list maker, I named one good thing and put it at the top. Numero Uno. It was not monumental; it only had to be accomplished by the end of the day.
I know myself. I know better than to create a mountain I can’t climb. Good things don’t need to be big things. I got rid of the notion that good deeds need to be life changing and discovered the importance of small, meaningful gestures.
The first thing I wrote on my new list was, “call Dad”. Calling my Dad became something I did in the car or at the end of the day, only to realize he was already in bed. Now I call him at noon, when we are both wide awake and have time to talk. The good thing became a good habit. This small shift in the order of things has been a big joy for both of us and led to other good things.
During one of our conversations he spoke about a Gregory Peck movie he loved that faded into obscurity and was never shown on TV. I found it on line for $1.99 and had it sent to him. Point ~ Click ~ Pay. He was delighted when it arrived in the mail and so was I.
Being on the giving end of a good thing means we are also on the receiving end. We reap an unexpected benefit that delivers a positive effect on our emotional and physical well-being. Making others feel good makes us feel good.
And let’s not forget ourselves. Sometimes the Good Thing can be all about you. Busy is here to stay but putting ourselves at the top of the list once in a while keeps things in perspective. That; and learning to say no.
Leave blank spaces in your list and insert good things for yourself. Some days it can be as simple as a drive through vanilla chai latte.