Leave It Better Than You Found It
“I never pick up an item without thinking of how I might improve it.” – Thomas A. Edison
I remember a time, many years ago when our kids were little, I had borrowed a pick-up truck from a friend so that I could move some furniture. After we finished up, one of my boys came along with me to return the truck. Along the way I stopped at the car wash. My son looked at me and said, “what are we doing dad?” I said, “son, anytime I borrow something, I always try to return it in better shape than when I borrowed it.” As any young boy would, he asked why. So I told him that it’s simply the right thing to do. I told him how my friend worked really hard to earn the money to buy that truck and we were blessed with being able to use it. So, in return for being able to use it, we are going to wash it and vacuum it and fill it up with gas so it will be nice and clean and ready for him to go anywhere. I remember borrowing a lawn mower once and while I had it I did some work on it so that it would work better for the owner the next time he used it.
In today’s society we are continually looking for what we will get out of things. We buy, borrow, or trade for something and use it up the discard it. Unfortunately, and usually unwittingly, we sometimes do that in relationships.
So, to Edison’s point, let’s purpose in our hearts and minds to leave things better than we found them. Let’s leave folks better than we found them. Let’s add value to everything we touch and everyone we meet rather than taking away. Let’s ask ourselves what we are bringing to our relationships. Are we adding more joy, or bringing sadness? Are we sharing wisdom to build things up, or simply opinions that tear things down? Are we adding, or subtracting? Think about your relationships right now. Think about three friends or coworkers that you spend the most time with and ask yourself if you are adding or subtracting. Are you giving or taking? Are you encouraging or discouraging? Think about the last few conversations you had with someone in your household? Did you build up or tear down. Did you give or receive? Did you think about what they wanted, or what you wanted?
Here’s the cool thing. No matter where you might be on the give and take scale, you can always start today to improve it. But I’m not going to give you a 5-step plan to making it better. I’m not going to give you a road map to better relationships. I’m simply going to talk about one thing, the heart. It’s simply a hear thing. If you want to improve your level of positive impact on your relationships, it all boils down to matters of the heart. So do this. Check your heart motivation. Challenge yourself to examine yourself. And be gut level honest with yourself. When something negative happens to you and your family, what is your first thought? Is it how it’s going to affect you? Or is it how it’s going to affect them? When you have a misunderstanding with a friend, do you feel anger? Or do you feel regret? Are you thinking, “I can’t believe they said that”, or are you thinking, “I wonder what made them feel so bad that they said something like that?” I know this is a lot of feely-feely stuff, but do it anyway. Really dig deep to see where your heart is. Then challenge yourself to always bring more to a relationship than you take away. Try to walk away from every encounter leaving the room with more of something positive than when you entered.
Try to leave it better than you found it.