“Always leave a bathroom cleaner than how you found it.”
~Viola Barnett, armchair philosopher
I was the recipient of many sage nuggets of advice from my Mom. And, as with most of her lessons, it was intended to be applied in a much broader context.
Don’t get me wrong, it is no small thing to leave a literal bathroom cleaner than you found it. Only since having children have I truly understood how that can change a person’s life.
But, what if we took that concept and applied it to human interaction? I’m not suggesting we Purell the hell out of the world and its inhabitants. Not that I haven’t had that overwhelming urge when stepping out of a children’s museum.
But, what if, every time you had any interaction, large or small, with another human, you decided to leave them better off than when you found them, even in the very smallest way?
What if you challenged yourself to step outside of how you are feeling that day and, instead, make it a point to turn someone else’s day around?
And, what if you don’t get to see any results from your effort but you do it anyway, knowing you may not get any immediate satisfaction?
You know the saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? I’ve had a few backfires in this quest to spiff up my fellow humans.
Some of you may already know my story about trying to help out a local hobo who was very verbose about the fact that he did not like carrots.
In fact, he tore me a new one and I ran away like a coward. So, that is an example, at least on the surface, of my good intention going horribly wrong.
But I posit that maybe it didn’t go as wrong as it seemed. Even if the outcome wasn’t what I’d hoped for, I still would like to believe that I have added a positive intention into the world. Whether it’s noticed by the I Hate Carrots Hobo or anyone who happened to see me try, at least the attempt was made.
And, I did walk away with a huge lesson learned. (Aside from looking more closely at a person’s dental status before offering hard food.)
You can’t go about this with the expectation or hope of a particular response. That sort of takes the focus off of someone else and puts it right back on you. It defeats the purpose of getting outside your own bubble for a minute.
On another occasion, I decided that I was going to try to walk around all day with at least the glimmer of a smile on my face, as opposed to what I expect I usually look like – confused and annoyed.
I won’t lie, I think I probably looked a bit creepy.
It’s really hard smiling for no specific reason. And I think I was so preoccupied with trying to look natural, I never noticed whether I got more smiles in return than normal or anyone seemed a tish happier.
OK, so again, I lazily went back to focusing on myself, thereby missing the entire point of the exercise.
It’s like any habit, I suppose. It takes repetition to make it a natural part of who you are.
At the very least, if I can’t leave someone better off than I found them, I’m trying not to add to the mess.
You don’t have to try to feed the homeless or frighten children with your forced smile like me. But, at least start by making sure you don’t leave anyone in worse shape than you found them.
Baby steps people. Baby steps.
“Just because an animal is large, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want kindness;
however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo.”
~ Pooh’s Little Instruction Book (inspired by A.A. Milne)
Photo #1 – http://www.kab.org/
Photo #2 – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcas_cherry_point/8580947002/
Photo #3 – Drew, fledgling cartoonist
Photo #4 – Willem DeFoe, who is often not this crazy looking and I’m guessing this is a selfie