My father grew up on a farm. During annual harvests, he was often promised a bicycle for his hard work. But season after season that bike never showed up. Then one day he came home to a shiny bicycle sitting in front of his father’s county store. His brand new bike had finally arrived.
Now, you have to hear his excitement when he tells this story. He’s 10 years old all over again.
“Oh man, it sure was nice! It had everything – chrome AND tassels!”
This story sticks out for me in the context of his life. His mother died when he was 9 years old. I’m amazed that this happy story managed to stay so prominent during that time. This story reminds me of what I admire about my father. He has an inspiring ability to quickly forgive the pains of life and return to joy and peace.
I’m glad I know this story. But it took me asking a question to uncover it. Oddly, it just never came up over the years. Now it’s a memory neither of us will ever forget.
10 questions that reveal surprising memories
Here are 10 questions that may uncover new stories about the lives of those you love. We all yearn to be known better and more deeply. Taking time to ask questions can be a service project on its own. And there is always more to learn even about the people we think we know best.
- What was the best gift you ever received?
- As a kid, what was an average weekend like in your family?
- Who is the first friend you can remember making?
- What things do you remember about your first love?
- If you could relive one year of your life which year would it be?
- Have you ever cried tears of joy?
- Who was the teacher that had the most impact on your life?
- Have you ever witnessed a life beginning?
- Have you ever witnessed a life ending?
- Have you ever witnessed a miracle?
What are some others?
Like many, I often find myself thinking about how to use my time better. Arguably time is our most precious and most limited resource. So it only makes sense that we’d try to be more thoughtful about where and with whom we spend it.
Here are five people that definitely deserve some of your time. You may only have a few of these friends in your life right now. And that’s perfectly fine. But be on the lookout for each of these people. Each will make you a better server in unexpected ways.
- The friend that you want to be more like. This isn’t about competition or envy. It is about motivation to be a better version of you. This friend helps make your growth goals more clear as you see traits in them that you want in yourself. The growing you will be a better server. Keep this friend around you.
- The friend that always shows up. It is wonderful to have people that you can call or text at any moment. But there should also be someone in your life that shows you why actions speak louder than words. This friend physically shows up for the things that matter to you. Your first book signing – check. Your wedding – check. The day your son was born – check. They remind you to move beyond good intentions when you seek to serve. Keep being grateful for this friend.
- The friend that tests your thinking. This is someone that helps you test your assumptions and theories for logic and bias. This isn’t someone that thrives off being smarter or wiser than you. They care deeply for your best interests and help you see where your blind spots might be. Knowing you’re not always right will make you more open hearted and accepting of others. Service thrives in an accepting heart. Keep this friend close.
- The friend that supports your spiritual journey. It isn’t uncommon to have very close friends that don’t discuss their spiritual life at all. Make sure one of your friends supports your spiritual journey. No matter what your belief system is you can be sure it will change, develop and deepen with time. It is a mighty friend that walks with you on this path. Most spiritual journeys will lead you back to service. Keep this friend close to your heart.
- The friend that needs your service. I can’t seem to remember a time when I didn’t have a friend that was going through a rough patch in life. Which friend it is changes, but life’s challenges come and go for us all. Protecting and serving others teaches us more about love than looking out for ourselves. Always have a friend that you’re lending your strength to and sharing their load. Keep this friend in your prayers.
Are you looking for one of these people?
If so, which one?
I can live for two months on a good compliment. – Mark Twain
Genuine compliments actually serve both the receiver and the giver. You can’t give a compliment without focusing on the beauty and value of others. So giving more compliments helps us develop our spirit of gratitude. And as I’ve covered previously, gratitude and service naturally cultivate each other.
Unleash the power
Have you ever wondered if men and women want to receive compliments in the same way? See below for ideas on how to tailor your compliment style by gender. These small tweaks in your delivery can help ensure that your positive message is received with the maximum impact.
- Ask for their advice: Many men see advice seeking as a sign that you respect them. And for men, respect is almost synonymous with love. I’ve taken a highly unscientific survey on this topic. All the men I asked said that being sought after for advice was the highest compliment a person could give them. Please note that it is very important to be authentic in valuing their expertise. Be careful what you seek advice on. If you don’t plan to use their advice it could be viewed as an insult.
- Be specific: My group of men reported not valuing general praises as much as specific ones. They preferred their compliments to be more targeted and unique. This may be because many men use logic to process emotion. It is therefore easier for them to see the emotion behind “I love the way you smoked the steaks. It had just the perfect mix of grill favor and tender texture.” than “These steaks are good!”
- Attention to detail: Women want to know that they are catching someone’s interest in a positive way. So it goes a long way when a person picks up on harder to notice changes. These could be things like their efforts to be more patient or even something cosmetic like a new hair style or outfit. The compliment is important, but it’s equally important to show that you care enough to be paying attention.
- Volume: The women I asked joked that they couldn’t imagine what too many compliments would look like. Some women preferred to receive compliments in private instead of public. But all wanted them to be plentiful. Don’t hold back.
How else do you compliment men and women differently? Surely this is just a start.
Speaking of compliments, please feel free to pay me a big one and SHARE this site with others. It’s definitely appreciated.
Yesterday, a frequent reader told me that finding time to do “5 minute favors” had made a big impact on their personal (and even professional) life. They suggested that I do more posts around the concept of micro-service efforts. Though quick and easy, these efforts make a difference. And they’re perfect for those with big hearts but minimal free time.
If you were with me in January the first 10 ideas below may seem familiar but the last 10 are fresh and new.
20 ways to serve in 4 minutes or less
- Tell someone a joke. Laughter is good for the heart.
- Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “Hey I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
- Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
- Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
- Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
- Pray for someone.
- Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
- Teach someone something. Anything.
- Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
- Give someone you love your undivided attention.
- Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
- Take time to write a supportive comment on Facebook.
- Hug someone.
- Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
- Leave change in a vending machine.
- Pay the toll for the person behind you.
- Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
- Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
- Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
- If you love them. Tell them.
What are other ideas you have?
Please comment below and share freely.
First let me apologize to the month of April. The first post of every month is supposed to offer suggestions for a monthly service focus. In January, we were inspired to make a start fresh. February was all about love. March service ideas came in bracket style. But here it is a full week into the month and I haven’t given April the focus she deserves.
April sparks spring cleaning
April is the first full month of spring. And spring inspires many people to think about refreshing their spaces and purging clutter. Spring cleaning is also a perfect time to gather donations that can serve others in your community. But deciding which items you’re ready to part with is a complex process. I won’t pretend that a simple list of questions will lead you to an easy answer. Below are 10 questions that should help you think about the potential donation from multiple angles. Consider each question, but don’t get hung up on needing the perfect answer. Through the process alone you may find yourself drawn to holding on to it or being ready to let it serve someone else.
Should you keep it or donate it?
- Would I give this item away to a friend that kept admiring it?
- If someone stole this item from me, how long would it take to notice it was gone?
- If I didn’t have this exact item, would I to buy it again within the next year?
- If I didn’t have this item, is there something else I’d use in its place?
- If someone offered me fair market value for this item would I sell it to them?
- Would holding on to this item for one more year reduce its quality as a donation?
- How many items like this do I think is enough? (i.e. How many T-shirts? Pens? Coffee mugs?)
- How do I feel when I imagine this item meeting a need for someone else?
- Might someone else find more joy in this item than I do?
- After answering these questions do I feel more inspired to keep this item or donate it?
How do you decide when it’s time to let something go?
There are moments in life when you get to play the part of the hero. Maybe you rescued a toddler that fell off her tricycle. Or maybe you hailed a cab in the rain for your group of friends. It’s a blessing to be able to rescue and serve those in need. And the reminder that you add value into the world feels pretty nice too.
To gain a superpower, look no further than your local drug store. Below is a list of items that may come in handy during your next rescue mission. They vary in size from “wallet ready” to “satchel approved” so everyone can carry something. There’s no pressure to get them all, but when they’re needed you’ll be an absolute hero.
HERO TOOL KIT
- Band-Aids: There are many brands of adhesive bandages but I can’t stop myself from calling them all “Band-Aids”. You can’t predict accidents, but these are a rescue waiting to happen.
- Tylenol: There are a lot of pain relievers out there, but acetaminophen (known by the brand name Tylenol) will serve the largest audience. Ibuprofen or naproxen can cause stomach irritation if not taken with food. Also pregnant women are limited to acetaminophen for their pain relief.
- Travel Sewing Kit: It’s bound to happen. Buttons will pop off and pant hems will fall out. They vary in size, but some travel sewing kits can easily fit in your wallet. You’ll be ready to rescue someone from walking around looking raggedy.
- Tissues: Gone are the days of gentlemen having a handkerchief to offer. Tissues serve the purpose even better.
- Skittles: Yes, I’m referring to the bright colored candy. In a pinch, Skittles are a commonly used substitute for glucose tablets which can quickly raise a diabetic’s blood sugar in an emergency.
- Trail Mix: People get hungry. Save them.
- Bottled Water: This is always good for a true emergency situation like being trapped in the desert. But its more common rescue use is to help someone swallow their pill-form medicine.
- Stain Remover Wipes: Stains are easier to remove when you treat them fast. And you’ll help them get that stain remover on the spot pronto. These come in very small travel packs about the size of a hand wipe.
- Feminine products (ladies only): Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve played this hero many times. It’s really simple, travel with extra feminine products on you and someone in need will ask for them.
- An Ink pen: Even in this day of electronic communication there are still times when someone will need an ink pen. This is usually to fill out a form (or do something else involving paper). Surprisingly few people carry pens on them anymore. Be the person that has one.
What items have you used to serve a dame or damsel in distress?
These days, our lives are more scheduled than ever. But sometimes we find ourselves with unexpected free time. For example, I drove 40 minutes into my office on Saturday (my day off) to catch up on things that weren’t getting my attention during the week. If I’m being honest, it was hard to give up my Saturday morning in favor of my work routine. It got even harder when I arrived at work and a technology issue prevented me from gaining access to my office floor. But I decided to keep trying and not let the badge reader defeat me. I called building security and waited over an hour for them to work on the issue. They eventually “suggested” that I go back home. It would take them several hours to fix the problem.
My story is not unique. Unexpected free time often presents itself as a problem at first. Maybe you tried to drive into work, but your car had a flat tire. Maybe you planned to go to your daughter’s soccer tournament, but it was cancelled because of rain. Or maybe you went to get a new driver’s license and saw that the wait was several hours long.
Welcome to unexpected free time.
What often limits our service to those we love is a lack of free time. Not just a lack of time to do things for loved ones, but often we don’t even have the time to think about what they might need. This is why unexpected free time is such a great opportunity. Here’s one easy way you can put this rare free time to good use.
Serving with your cell phone
- Take out your cell phone and go through the list of your 25 most recent texts.
- Look at the names there. These will likely be a large portion of the people you interact with most often and care the most about. Granted some family and friends won’t have cell phone or maybe they don’t text, but this is a good list to start with.
- As you pass each name, stop for 30 seconds and consider that person for a moment. What’s going on in their lives? What could they use encouragement on? How will this message serve them?
- Send them a two to three line text. DO NOT copy and paste messages or mass text recipients. Each message should be custom and serve the recipients unique needs.
- Hit send and move to the next name on the list.
Each person should get roughly 2-3 minutes of your attention. If you don’t have the time to do everyone simply wait until your next unexpected free time comes up. And it will come up.
How do you use your cell phone to serve?
Imagine yourself arriving at work in the morning.
All your coworkers are also at work today, but nobody says good morning or makes morning small talk.
You go directly to your work space.
You turn on your computer and get straight to work.
You respond to emails. You answer work related calls. You work on reports or write code or do some other independent tasks for several hours.
You may run out for lunch. You stand in line with strangers while getting your food. You use that time to read email that has come in since you left your desk. You get your food and return to your office. You eat your food in the office kitchen alone.
You join a few more conference calls. After two minutes of conversation about the weather in your locations all the team members have joined the call and you jump into the purpose of the meeting. You discuss the things they need from you and the things you need from them.
You watch the clock for a reasonable time to disconnect from those you need to be accessible to. When you shut down for the day you walk out of the office without anyone saying goodbye.
Then you continue to live this same workday over and over and over again.
Welcome to the world of working from home. And it’s not for the faint of heart. Yes, working from home definitely has its perks but for many people it can be lonely. The story above is the daily emotional experience for some people that work at home. They get up. They may or may not get dressed and proceed to live this day of transactional human contact again and again.
Building strong personal relationships with virtual workers definitely serves them, but it may also serve you. Employees that are more engaged with coworkers tend to produce stronger work products and are more committed to a shared mission. If you or someone you know works with a virtual team member feel free to pass these ideas along.
Being a Real Life Coworker to a Virtual Team Member
- Say good morning and good night even if through email. You don’t have to do this every day. Actually, I recommend you don’t do it every day. If you do, it might feel more like you’re checking up on your virtual colleague. But doing it every now and then acknowledges that you are jumping into the day together and that they are worth thinking about even when you don’t need anything.
- Make time to talk on the phone with no agenda. Every time you speak to them you shouldn’t have a work agenda. In a real life work environment, you pass people on the way to the bathroom or hang out in their office to take a break. Every conversation with a virtual coworker should not be about accomplishing something.
- Don’t forget to celebrate. Schedule virtual office parties. These are times when one of more people get on the phone (or video) and celebrate alone, but together. You can ship treats or make it BYOC (Bring Your Own Cake), but make sure you’re both doing the same thing (e.g. eating cake) at the same time. Then simply discuss the happy event (birthday, wedding, new baby, finished project, etc) as if you were all in a conference room together.
- Take the time to know them. If you work with this person regularly (and especially if they work for you), make a point to know the answers to these basic but sometimes overlooked questions.
- When is their birthday?
- Are they married?
- Do they have children?
- Are their parents still living? If so, where do they reside?
- How many siblings do they have?
- What is their birth order?
- Where are they from?
- What is their favorite hobby/pastime?
What am I missing?
Service and gratitude are like a happy marriage. Each can exist on their own, but combined they make each other grow and thrive. If you’re trying to live a life of service you will find yourself drawn to gratitude too. One can’t help but cultivate the other.
The 14 people below are just ideas of people you may owe a thank you to. See someone you know? Reach out to them and share how they impacted your life (assuming that is still possible). But either way, take a moment to feel the gratitude because it will grow your desire to serve.
14 Awesome People
- The person who showed you what a good leader looks like.
- The person who taught you how to teach others.
- The person who listened when you couldn’t hold it in any longer.
- The person who taught you that laughter has the power to heal.
- The person who forgave you when you didn’t deserve it.
- The person who always had time for you.
- The person who gave you that compliment you’ll never forget.
- The person who believed in you when you couldn’t believe in yourself.
- The person who made it harder for you when you hadn’t learned your lesson.
- The person who waited when you needed time to mature.
- The person who had a good reason to judge you, but didn’t.
- The person who played a small role in your major life decision.
- The person who served you when you definitely weren’t serving them.
- The person who prayed for you.
Have any of these people served you?
My sons are two years apart, but they both had the same preschool teacher. Her class was called the Brown Bears. Every week, each brown bear was assigned a different helper role in the classroom. My boys would come home at the start of the week and happily announce their new job. Eventually, they got a chance to try them all.
For some reason, I started thinking about their preschool class while driving to work yesterday. I can vividly remember the Brown Bear helper chart that tracked the assignments. I decided to take a crack at customizing the preschool helper roles I found online for grown-ups in the workplace. Similar to preschool, we’re instinctively drawn to serve the people we interact with everyday.
Generally speaking, adults don’t need much monitoring in the bathroom. It also may be someone’s paid job to clean up the restrooms in regular intervals. In between cleanings the bathroom monitor takes it upon themselves to tidy up. They may also donate supplies to help out a fellow co-worker in need (feminine products, mouthwash, lotion, etc).
The bell ringer helps us maintain a healthy rhythm to our workdays. They suggest breaks, lunch times, and nudge us out the door at night.
In preschool this is the person that walks at the end of the line. I don’t see much walking in a line at work. I like to think of the Caboose in the office as the last person out for the day. They turn off the lights and large power-draining electronics like the copier. They also make sure all office doors are secure.
This is the person that checks in and makes sure people have what they need. They know how and where to get supplies. They also know a workaround to almost every issue you could encounter in the office.
This person is a sounding board and soother of feelings to everyone in the office. They know how to listen and they can be trusted. Two incredible combinations.
The application in the office is obvious, but I’m not really sure how this applies in preschool. This is the person at work that knows how to fix minor technical and user error issues. Their skills are always in need even in offices that have internal technical support staff.
I know what you’re thinking, “Why would someone heat spaghetti in the office microwave without covering it?” But it happens. This is a perfect challenge for someone in the role of custodian. They don’t get angry. They simply give the office kitchen a quick wipe down. Microwave, counters…everything. No it’s not their job, but that’s what makes them a great office helper.
Regardless of gender, this person looks for times to hold the door open for colleagues. It’s a small gesture, but it briefly shows people they are worthy of the helper’s effort.
Let’s call this one “Coffee Monitor.” Critical job in any office. If they see the coffee getting low, they’ll make some mo’!
Ever vigilant about educating and encouraging eco-friendly office practices.
They nominate themselves to look after the plants of those on vacation or traveling.
They come in ready to give everyone that special kind of “Good Morning” that sounds like they actually mean it.
This person starts talking about lunch right after everyone arrives in the morning. They know all the potential lunch options and don’t mind calling in the orders, picking up the food or meeting the delivery man. Most importantly, this person collects money and settles up the lunch related expenses.
In the office, nobody really monitors lunch. So let’s call this one “Refrigerator Monitor” instead. This person immediately throws out anything disgusting and encourages the labeling and regular clean out of the shared office refrigerator.
This person always knows the weather forecast for tomorrow AND next week. They remind you when you need to bring things home because of a pending snow storm. They also help you plan your weather appropriate wardrobe for the rest of the week.
These are the ones I could not match up with an office service. If you have any suggestions on how to apply them at work, please school us in the comments. Thanks!
- Center Monitor
- Electrician (Is this really a job in preschool?)
- Flag Holder/Pledge Leader
- Line Leader
- Materials Monitor
- Paper Passer
- Calendar Helper
- Snack Helper
- Folder Passer
- Table Washer
- Equipment Manager
- Chair Stacker
- Shoe Expert