I’ve Got Time For That

Have you ever received a call from someone who is feeling down or overwhelmed, who just needs someone to talk to?  I got a call like that earlier this week while I was at work, and I had a choice to make.  Do I hurry to get them off the phone quickly because I’m busy and have a lot of stuff to get done, or do I carve out some time and listen to them?  I chose the latter.   

Before you think, “Good job!  You made the right choice!”, I must confess.  My initial thought was that I need to get off the phone.  It wasn’t until I started to hear how they were feeling about what they were experiencing, that I felt prompted not to ditch the call, but to actively listen to them.  (I think the Holy Spirit is good at prompting me like that.  I’m trying to get better at actually listening to Him.)     

We’ve all been there.  Sometimes we just want to be heard, to be acknowledged, or to have someone tell us, “Yeah, that sucks!”  or offer us a bit of encouragement.  What a blessing to think that we could provide that to someone else when they need it.

That’s something I’ve got time for.    

I’ll Do It Later…Whenever That Is

I have a lot of positive intentions pop into my head throughout the day.  One that I often get is that I should send a hand-written card to someone I happen to be thinking of.  (In the middle of all the technology around us, I still like sending hand-written cards.  Who’d have thought that going “old school” would make you stand out in the Internet age!)  My problem is that I often tell myself I’ll do that later.  All too often, however, “later” never comes.

This week I had the same thought pop into my head regrading someone I though could use an encouraging note.  Only this time, instead of saying I’ll do it later, I took a different approach.

I went to the closet and got out a card and envelop and put it on my desk where I work every day.  Then, I determined that I would get the card written during lunch and placed in the mail that same day.  And you know what?   IT WORKED!  I got the card written and sent!  Who’d have thought!

Sometimes our biggest barrier to following through on our intentions, is that we lack a plan, no matter how simple, to make it happen.  For me, the simple act of getting the card out and naming a time to write in it was all I needed to ensure I followed through on my intention.

The next time your mind offers up a good intention that will bless someone else, don’t just assume you’ll do it later.  Put together a quick, simple plan that will ensure you turn that intention into completed action.

The person you’re blessing will be grateful you had a plan.

Different Backgrounds Different Outlook

Here’s something we all know, but that I often forget… we don’t all have the same background and experiences shaping how we view ourselves and the world.

I can too easily assume that others have similar backgrounds and experiences as me.  That assumption is an easy connection to another equally false assumption; that what I would do or how I would think in a situation is how others should think.  That’s simply not true. 

Our experiences and backgrounds shape how we interpret what we see in the world, so it’s obvious that those with differing experiences would see things different that I would, and vice versa.

I like to frequently remind myself about this so that I don’t look up one day and realize that I’ve turned into a cranky old man, simply because I assume that the problem with everyone is that they don’t see the world the same way I do.

There Should Be A Website For That

Wal-Mart shoppers often get a bad rap.  There are websites out there that show pictures and behaviors of what some people think are stereotypical Wal-Mart shoppes.  However, I had a couple experiences last Saturday that shatters the typical stereotypes you’d see on such sites.

First, I was on the isle looking at plastic storage bins.  (So many choices!)  As I was comparing a couple options, I could see a shopper out of my peripheral vision push their shopping cart down the main isle.  I didn’t think anything of it until I heard a voice saying, “You don’t want to buy that one, because the plastic handles break off.”  I turned and noticed that lady was pointing to one of the bins I was looking at on the shelf.

“Really?”  I said, in a tone that invited her to tell me more. She told me that she had bought that particular bin recently and after using it for a short timeframe the handles had both broken off.  I told her I which plastic bin I was considering, as I pointed to its location on the shelf.  She said that one would be a much better choice.   

After grabbing the bin, I headed to the pet section where I was looking for some litter box solutions for our cats.  I had a couple of products in my hand when I heard another voice to my right.  “I just bought that one, and it’s really good.”  I turned to see another lady pointing to one of the products in my hand.  “Oh, really?  So, you like this one?”  I said, as I held up the product she was pointing to.  She asked if I minded a recommendation, to which I responded, “For sure!  What have you got?”. 

She told me about her recent purchase and how it has been working well for her cats.  We talked for a few minutes about some other options, and she bid me “good luck”. 

I think it was so great, in light of all the division and discord between people these days, that each of these ladies decided to offer their assistance to me for no other reason than to see that I made a good purchase. 

There should be a website to showcases people like that!

The Kindness of Strangers

“Be sure you check the expiration date on that.” 

As my wife and I were picking up some groceries in a town we were visiting last week, this was the warning, from an unfamiliar voice, I was greeted with as I reached for the container of yogurt.  I turned toward the voice and noticed it was one of the ladies who, presumably, lived in the town we were in.  I wasn’t sure why she was warning us, and I was a little skeptical as to why she would approach us in the first place.  It turns out her motives were pure.

She continued, “I bought some yogurt here a couple weeks ago, and when I got home, I noticed it was way past the expiration date!  This place is good for produce, and a couple other items, but other than that, it’s horrible… and their prices are too #@$%& high!!” 

“Really?!  That sucks!!” was my emphatic reply.

She mentioned that we didn’t look like we were from there and asked if we were visiting.  I told her that indeed, we were visiting the area, and were just out picking up a few things.  Upon hearing this, she told us which grocery store we should visit.  One that had much better prices.  She even gave us detailed directions to the aforementioned store.  We chatted for a few moments, paid for our produce, and followed her directions to the other store.

I’m glad we did!  The prices were indeed lower.  In fact, we saved $2 on the yogurt alone!  In total, she saved us about $20 on our grocery bill.

I was grateful for the kindness of a strange, who reached out to offer assistance for no other reason than to help someone out… that, and perhaps to sock it to a store she so obviously disdained.

To me, she is a memorable example of what it looks like when one member of society is looking out for the well-being of another.  The world needs more of that kind of caring.

May we all do and do likewise.

A Trip Back In Time

I felt like I went back in time for a moment this week… and I loved it!

My wife and I were walking on a popular beach in Oregon, when a couple we were passing held out their cell phone and pleasantly asked, “Would you mind taking our picture?”  I use to hear (and even ask) that question all the time on vacations, hikes or at any other outing with a view I’d like to capture with me in it.  Now, with cell phones and selfie sticks, it seems no one ever asks that question any more.  At least not until last week.

My answer to the couple… “ABSOLUTELY!!”

I miss being asked that question.  It’s always been fun to share a moment like that with someone, as you help them preserve a memory.  With all the options available that remove the need to interact, it was nice to be invited to share the moment with them.

I hope they enjoy the photo as much as I enjoyed taking it. 

Let Them Know

I had the best experience at an auto dealership service department that I’ve ever had this week.  The service person that I was in contact with was Phil and he was what made the experience so great! 

For starters, he called me early on the morning of my visit to let me know exactly what they would be doing to my car.  He also gave me a price of what the worst-case scenario, from a cost standpoint, would be.  What appreciated most about Phil was the customer service.  The way he described everything and communicated with me instilled trust. 

After talking with him a couple of times on the phone, and when I picked up my car at the end of the day, I got them impression that his main goal was to ensure that my car was properly taken care of and that I had a good customer experience.  I also got them impression by observing him interact with others, that this is the only kind of customer service he knows how to give.

As I was talking to him before I left, I told him how much I appreciated working with him that day and what a good experience I had. 

I think it’s important to let people know when they do a great job and give them with positive words of sincere appreciate.  I know I enjoy getting positive feedback.  My guess is others do as well.

Helping Those Behind You

This week, my team at work was interviewing for a senior-level data analyst member.  It’s pretty easy to tell whether someone has the technical skills to do the job based on the sample of the work they bring to the interview, as well as how they describe the work experience they’ve acquired throughout their career.  We had one candidate form a different department in our organization that is brand new in the field, with very little experience, but they sure stood out.

While it was obvious that this candidate didn’t have the necessary qualifications, I was impressed by the steps they had taken, and are scheduled to take, in order to educate themselves about data analysis.  At one point during the interview, they showed us a sample of a coding exercise they had done in school, and while, by their own admission, it was very basic, it is where we all start… at the very beginning. 

This person is excited to be on the journey and eager to learn about data analysis.  Toward the end of the interview, they humbly mentioned that they would be interested in any guidance, assistance, or mentoring anyone on the team would be willing to provide.  The team mentioned that they would be eager to offer any help they could.

After the interview was over, I had a career flashback.  In this candidate, I saw myself at the start of my career.  I remember being new to the filed, proud of the first basic code I had just written, while at the same time knowing that I had so much more to learn.  Fortunately, I still feel that way.

I was reminded of the experienced people who helped me grow my knowledge and gain the experience I lacked.  People like Edwin, Chuck, Joel, and Prasenjit.  These kind folks were extremely generous with their time, listening to my questions and helping me understand new and often confusing concepts.  They were willing to take the time to invest in someone who didn’t yet have much to offer, but who was eager to learn.  I am grateful for their investment in me.

Flash back to the present.  Ever since that interview, I’ve been thinking how quickly the time went from when I was someone with no skills, but a strong willingness to learn, to someone who can actually reach back and help someone coming up behind me.  I can think of no better way to honor Edwin, Chuck, Joel, and Prasenjit’s investment in me than reaching back and offering a hand to this person behind me. 

It Makes Sense To Them

Brace yourself, because I’m about to drop a news flash!  Ready?  Not everyone shares the same viewpoints as me.  Whoa, that’s huge!  Here’s an even bigger news flash… not everyone shares the same viewpoints as you either.  BOOM!!

You’re probably sarcastically thinking, “Thanks for dropping the obvious on me, Scott.  I had no idea!”  If that’s your thought, then you’d be right; we all obviously know that not everyone agrees with our viewpoints and opinions.  Yet while we know this to be true, I think we sometimes forget that a person’s viewpoint or opinion, which may seem strange, or even wrong to us, makes perfect sense to them.

There is a reason why a person thinks the way they do, or believes what they believe.  Their viewpoints are likely shaped by their own unique life experiences, which are probably not the exact same life experiences that we’ve had. 

Ok, that seems pretty obvious too.  So why do I bring it up?

There’s so much divisiveness now.  It seems when we encounter someone with a differing viewpoint, we feel we a need to defend our position.  We’re eager enter into a debate and convince the other person that their viewpoint is wrong, and if they had even a slight modicum of intelligence, they would adopt our position.  We already know where that usually leads: more discord, animosity, hurt feelings, and possibly fractured relationships.  I propose another response to differing viewpoints.

What if, the next time we’re confronted with an opposing viewpoint, instead of immediately entering into a debate, we try to genuinely find out why the person holds that viewpoint?  Not with toxic accusations or labeling, but with a genuine curiously and non-inflammatory questions.  What if we cared enough to see beyond the differences, and to see the person and their experience that lead them to the viewpoints they hold?  

My guess is, that once we’ve taken the time to understand someone, we’ll have a better comprehension of why they think the way they do.  Who knows?  We might even change our own viewpoint in the process.

A Thought On Unity

There’s a lot of talk currently about how divided we are in the US.  While I think that’s true, I also think there is a lot that still unites us. 

Consider the following things that still unite us with other people:

  • Family
  • Friendships
  • Church and religious beliefs
  • Hobbies
  • Places we work
  • Clubs and affinity groups
  • Colleges and universities we’ve attended
  • Civic groups
  • Volunteer organizations
  • Common goals
  • Neighborhoods
  • Common experiences
  • Countries or states of origin

That’s a good, yet incomplete list!  We don’t realize all the things that bring unity until we pause long enough to consider them.  I’m encouraged by such list. 

Unity doesn’t mean “in total agreement with”.  In fact, we can have unity with someone, even when we don’t agree with them.  For example, you can disagree with a relative, yet still have unity with them as a member of your family. 

Disagreeing, or having differing viewpoints, with someone doesn’t mean we can’t have unity with them.  We’re not required to hate someone and treat them poorly, simply because we don’t agree with them on a specific topc. Why would we sacrifice unity on the altar of disagreement?  Why would we throw out a relationship simply because of differing viewpoint or opinion?  That seems wasteful to me.

When you have a disagreement with a friend, family member, or someone you currently have unity with, remember that you can still be united, even amidst differing opinions or viewpoints.

Unity and disagreement are not mutually exclusive.