One of my passions is sailing so among other things I volunteer as a member evaluator with my sailing club. Recently I needed to go sailing with a newer club member whose membership application I had approved about a year ago. It was one of the easiest approvals ever, as born and raised on boats, she was highly competent and a teacher by profession, ticking all the boxes.
Out of the blue, I received a text from her asking me if I’d like to go sailing sometime. Does Arnold work out? Is water wet? So, we set a time and as we were sailing, she said she wanted to thank me for encouraging her to join the club. My encouragement changed her life.
Really? She had been uncertain about handling the outboards on the small boats. All I did was tell her the truth, that given the high level of sailing skill and boat handling ability she described and demonstrated that day, for her, that would be trivial and easily mastered.
Since then, she joined, passed all the club requirements, and even got her instructor’s certificate from a national accrediting organization. She became very involved with racing and our volunteer youth teaching program. As a result, she was hired as a pro by another nearby club, and now has a new career teaching sailing, which she loves.
So, bear in mind that as you are wandering through your normal daily life regardless of any formal training in change work, opportunities will arise to make the world a better place, just by you being you.
Most of the time, you never learn of impacts like that. For someone to go out of their way like that to show appreciation is about as rare as somebody thanking me for something I put in a book they read.
You can conservatively consider given the uncertainty of life that for every person who thanks you for making a difference in their life, there are at least several more, perhaps five of ten more, who simply didn’t get the opportunity. If you impact just one person a week, four or five people positively in a month, on the time scale of human life you are making a significant impact.
It can be as simple as acknowledging someone’s existence. The clerk at the grocery store is a machine to a lot of his customers. And simply a sincere greeting can lighten up their day. It’s showing appreciation and respect, things too often lacking in our environment.
There is a funny thing going on, almost like some people think that if I acknowledge you for having contributed something to me, somehow that makes me less. The fact is pretty much the opposite. If I show you appreciation, obviously I have resources in reserve, among them time, kindness, and compassion. Since when did those become weaknesses?
I think it was Richard Bandler who said if you don’t know what else to do, just make it your practice to leave everyone you meet in a better state than they were when you met them. Paying it forward, building karma, a mitzvah, call it what you will, as simple as a smile, or eye contact, it’s a good practice.