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A Missed Opportunity

Let's lend a hand this year. Look for the small moments to help.

Let’s lend a hand this year. Look for the small moments to help.

I have a challenge for you in 2015. And don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do. In fact, it’s really a challenge for me that I want to share with you. I want you to seek out opportunities to help others. Whether it is as small as holding the elevator door for someone at the office or as big as approaching someone in your life with some feedback (probably the biggest and scariest offer you can make). But start small. Open your eyes to the little opportunities that life offers you everyday to make someone’s life better.

Right before the end of the year, I had a moment where I failed to help someone and it continues to bother me. I didn’t reach out when I could have. When I should have. When I could have at least tried. It was a small moment, but that’s probably the thing that bothers me the most. It wasn’t a grand gesture or something that anyone would have remembered. Except for this one guy- the guy I could have extended a small gesture of kindness towards.

Between Christmas and New Year’s, my kids attended a drama camp at the Seattle Children’s Theatre and in the afternoons, I would drive over from work and wait for them to be released from camp. One afternoon, I arrived a little early and sat in my car reading as the rain poured down. Unlike typical Seattle rain, which is more like getting gleeked on by what I imagine are rebellious teenage clouds (they all gravitate to Seattle), this was really hard rain. It was a deluge.

As I waited, I happened to glance across the street and noticed a car parked on the other side. There was a man in the driver’s seat pulling his collapsible wheelchair across his lap and setting it up beside him on the road. And of course, because of the pouring rain, he was getting drenched as he tried to set up his chair and snap the wheels into place.

I immediately thought, “Poor guy is getting soaked. I should shield him from the rain.” But then, I realized I didn’t have an umbrella. I did have a jacket that I could have stretched above him and held like a shield from the rain. But I didn’t get out of my car. I wondered if he might think me ridiculous or overly solicitous. I figured he’d get the wheels on quickly and be on his way.

But then he wasn’t. I don’t know if it was the rain or what, but he was struggling to get his chair together. Shit, I thought. I should go over there still. But then I felt weird because he’d been struggling for several minutes and I hadn’t stepped in immediately to offer assistance. The moment has passed, I told myself. I stayed in the comfort of my car. The comfort of inaction.

Finally, he did get his chair together, hopped in and rolled off toward his destination. I looked over at his now empty car and felt like it was glowering at me in disappointment. His car was right- I hesitated when I could have helped. It would have been such a small thing. And perhaps he was already soaked, so the holding of the jacket wouldn’t have actually helped much. But. But it would have said that someone was there. That we watch out for each other, that we reach out a hand to each other.

I regret missing the opportunity to do that. And I don’t just regret it for the small help it may have been to him. He may have moved away, appreciative of a small act of kindness- which would have been wonderful. But, I too, would have left that moment buoyed up, smiling, happy to have helped someone. Even if I never mentioned it (though I might have, to my kids), I could have had it tucked away as something kind that I had done.

Instead, it weighs on me that I did not take action on my impulse. I feel the regret of it chafe against my heart. How could I have missed the chance to do something so simple? It is a reminder of one of my favorite axioms, “Choosing to do nothing is still a choice.” In my inaction, I made a choice and not the one I wish I had made.

Closing the door on 2014 was something I was happy to do. The year was a good one and I have a lot to be proud of and even more to be grateful for, but it didn’t feel like a year that moved me forward the way I would have hoped. In fact, there were moments when I longed for a hand to reach out and help me. But how can I hope for that, when I failed to seize an opportunity to do the same?

So, in 2015, I will hesitate less. I will reach out more. I will find small moments to stretch myself.

Will you join me? Will you lend a hand? To a stranger, a friend, a colleague? I have already begun to scan for opportunities.

Imagine if all of us do this. Imagine if we all take a few extras steps or moments to lift each other up. To be kind instead of indifferent. The world WILL be better for it and so will each of us.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

Wishing you happiness and health in 2015!

In just 5 minutes, an EMT reminds us what really matters

In this brief insightful TED talk, a veteran EMT, Matthew O’Reilly,

It just takes 5 minutes to learn something profound

It just takes 5 minutes to learn something profound

reminds us what really matters at the end of our days- whether you die of old age surrounded by loved ones, or your death is a sudden event and your last moments are spent under the watchful gaze of a stranger. Almost universally, a few simple themes come up in those final moments- Forgiveness, Remembrance, Meaning.

And so, this talk presents us with an opportunity. Will you hold up the mirror this talk gives you? It might feel a little scary at first- what if you don’t like the answers? Well, if you are reading this- it’s unlikely you are experiencing your final moments (as great as this blog is), so you have time to change the answers, if you find them wanting.

According to Mr. O’Reilly (and many others), the questions or reflections that your imminent demise surface are:

1. Forgiveness. Whether named a regret or a sin, is there something you are doing or have done that you will seek amends for? The particularly poignant example that he shares is almost apocryphal, “I wish I had spend more time with my children and grandchildren.” So, what are you doing (or not doing) that you might regret?

2. Remembrance. Will anyone (whether an EMT, a Dr., family, or friends) remember me? We want to continue to exist in someone’s world, hopefully as a cherished memory.

3. Meaning. Philosophers and religions have sought to answer (or create answers) to this profound question for thousands of years. But I think in our final moments, our conception of “meaning” is far more intimate- Did I spend my time well? Did I make a difference in someone’s life?

Watch and read everything she does! I love me some Brene!

Watch and read everything she does! I love me some Brene!

What these questions tell me is something that the amazing Brene Brown (reigning champion of TED talks and a personal inspiration) has so eloquently illuminated- humans crave connection. We are fundamentally wired to desire meaningful connections with others.

So, let’s use this talk to look in that mirror and ask those questions. Maybe do it once or twice a year. Maybe before you say “I do” or take that next job. Are you making decisions and living your life in a way that will give you satisfying answers when it is your final time to ask these questions of yourself.

The answers may be different for everyone- but asking these questions and particularly discussing them with your loved ones and friends will undoubtedly give us what we ultimately crave- DEEP, MEANINGFUL CONNECTION with people we care about.

These insights also make me think of things that have never been said. No one has ever said, “I wish I had less empathy for others,” or “I wish I hadn’t wasted time being kind to others.” Time spent devoted to others, even in the smallest gestures or moments, is time well spent.

Mr. O’Reilly begins his talk with an incredibly comforting observation- people are peaceful in their last moments. Acceptance comes easily, which is a profoundly freeing idea. Even if it’s hard to imagine now, it’s reassuring to know that your final moments will be moments of peace and acceptance.

As always, thanks so much for reading and sharing! I love your feedback, comments, and appreciate you spending these few minutes with me!

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