good life with toni sullivan
Part of cultivating a good life is to choose action over good intentions.
The effects of our positive actions are felt by the individual acting and countless others. You’ll never know how far the ripples of your kindness will extend. Simply stated, THE SMALLEST ACT IS BETTER THAN THE GREATEST INTENTION.
There are many reasons why I believe this so strongly, but two experiences in particular have impacted me recently and have guided my thoughts for this message.
In my immediate family, 2015 was filled with much success and happiness, but it was also stricken with incredible challenges and grief. One sister is fighting valiantly her second battle with Stage IV breast cancer. Another sister survived a horrific auto accident that left her body totally disabled and is fighting a long road back to health. My 90-year-old mother, who has previously buried four of her children and my dad, all at young ages, has watched helplessly as her adult children endure major health struggles, while she also endures the effects of aging. All three are extreme examples of positive attitudes, hard work, and faith. And they have had to learn the hard lesson of allowing others to serve them and being gracious recipients. They are all givers by nature, so this has been a difficult thing to learn. Their expressions of gratitude and humility have also inspired members of their support teams, as well as occasional guests. I witnessed innumerable, seemingly insignificant, acts performed by others uplift and sustain them in their trials.
I also have worked in the healthcare industry in home health and hospice for fifteen years. One of the key services that is provided for patients is assistance with their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). These are the basic skills we all use every day and include tasks like dressing ourselves, feeding ourselves, personal hygiene, getting in and out of bed safely, etc. When these small actions are available to us, it is common to take them for granted. However, when they become difficult and interfere with our independence, they can be very debilitating and discouraging. Although not often consciously considered, ADLs enrich and simplify our lives.
Each of us has within us the talents to be a caregiver in one form or another. It doesn’t have to be in a large, full-time role. It can be as simple as holding the door or elevator for someone, scraping snow from the car parked next to us, or paying for the soda for the person behind us in the line at the gas station. Opportunities to serve others arise every day, beginning with our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and extending to strangers in need. It seems that Thanksgiving and Christmas lend themselves to reaching out to others and service is widespread and abundant. However, it is common for this to be a seasonal thing and not part of our everyday lives. I believe serving others in small and large ways should become one of our own ADLs. To those of us who can be part of a support team in any of our communities (home, family, church, etc.), it is important to reach out and make random acts of kindness happen.
It is common to rationalize that “I’ll go visit a friend when I get the cookies or bread made,” or “I’ll call her next week when things settle down,” or “I’ll mention the great service of my cashier to a supervisor another day as I don’t have time today.” (However, we are quick to voice our discontent when we feel our service is subpar or that we have been mistreated.) I suggest we go visit without the bread this time, we make the call even if it has to be very short, and that we immediately express our pleasure to the cashier and then stop at the customer service desk to voice our satisfaction with the service. The time it takes to jot a quick note of gratitude, share a personal greeting, or extend kindness in countless, yet simple, ways is time well invested. The positive ripples extend far beyond measure both for the receiver and the giver. These acts often lead the receiver to seek a way to “pay it forward.”
As we enter 2016 and continue to strive to cultivate good lives, many goals will be made; some will be kept and others will only be something “we intended to do.” I am recommitting my efforts and offer you the challenge to join me as we CHOOSE SMALL ACTIONS OVER GOOD INTENTIONS. Let’s make random acts of kindness part of our own set of Activities of Daily Living. The joy we feel and the joy we spread will forever bless our lives as well as those we share with. Happy New Year to all of you as you add a new and very important ADL to your lives!
note from becky
I had a recent experience that I hesitated sharing because I don’t want to come across as boastful, and yet I feel that little nudge that is making me feel like this small example is one that might encourage someone else in some way.
A few months ago I was checking out at Target and the cashier and I were having some friendly conversation. I learned that she was a full-time teacher and a mother. And there she was … working a second job at Target … in the evening. She wasn’t complaining or even making a big deal of it. It’s just something I caught onto as we chatted. We completed the transaction and I pushed my cart toward the exit. And then it came — an overwhelming feeling that I needed to offer a gift. I pulled out the cash from my wallet, wrote a note on a scratch piece of paper, and gave this to another Target employee to hand to the cashier as I was leaving.
The reason I’m sharing this is because it was a feeling — a prompting — that led me to do that random act of kindness. This happens to most of us. You know what I’m talking about. So just as Toni has shared with us some inspiration on being caregivers in one way or another, my challenge to each of us is to listen more closely to those promptings so that we may be more in tune with how we can serve others. And then do it. Like she said, we may never really know the ripple effects from showing kindness to another.
Toni is not someone we have known very long, but after some email dialogue with Wendy on our team (customer service), we did have the pleasure of meeting her in-person at a recent event and we are touched by the way she gives so much of herself. It’s an honor to have Toni be a part of our Good Life series, as a customer and friend to the company.
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