“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
When I was in my thirties, I worked as an editor for a legal management magazine. One day while there, I had one of my co-workers, a petite blonde woman in her late twenties named Sheila, review an article I intended to publish in the legal management association publication. I had Shelia review the article because it concerned an area of the association where she worked and thought getting her input might be a good idea. After she returned it to me, it had many changes and questions. This I did not like. I was angry that she hadn’t simply approved it with minor or no changes. (Obviously, I had issues of my own, such as too much pride in my work product.) For many months after this, I decided to not even talk to Sheila when I passed her in the hallway of the association offices. In time, I discovered this young woman was married, like me, but was unable to have any children. She really wanted children and decided to try adopting a child.
To do this, though, she had to effectively compete for the attention and interest of the pregnant mothers-to-be. She had to know how to say the right things to get the mother of the child to be adopted interested in considering her and her husband as adoptive parents. At the time, I had just had our first son Alex, and spend part of my maternity leave reading the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the habits that really resonated with me was to “Begin with the End in Mind” when living your life. Best-selling author Stephen Covey advises readers to think about how you want to be remembered at your funeral or memorial service. Visualize your loved ones on that day.
What will they say about you?
What character would you like them to have seen in you?
What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember?
Look carefully at the people around you.
What difference would you like to have made in their lives.
The idea of beginning with the end in mind had a profound effect on me. I knew now I wanted to be remembered as a kind, compassionate person who had made a positive difference in the lives of others. This key idea from the Seven Habits changed me so that when I returned to work from my maternity leave, I now wanted to help Sheila.
I asked her if she wanted me to help her write a letter that would get a pregnant woman interested in meeting with her and her husband. Up to this point, the letter they had written had gotten them zero meetings with the mothers-to-be. Sheila said yes, please, we need help. After that, she showed me a book of letters people had written to get the interest of the pregnant women, including their letter.
Through reviewing this book, I was able to see which letters were effective with their messages and which were not. “Why do you want a child?” I asked Sheila. “Why would you and your husband be the best couple to raise someone else’s child?” I explained to her that what was most important was to stand out from the others, getting the mother’s attention about why they were the best option. They had to market themselves better, in effect, to get a child. Keeping this in mind, I helped Sheila write a letter that was successful in getting her a meeting with a pregnant mother. Ultimately, this meeting led to her and her husband adopting a child.
Now that I am getting closer to the end of my life, I look back on this experience as one time I made a positive difference to someone else. Rather than holding onto anger about something trivial, I decided to be compassionate instead and open my heart to Sheila, helping her and her husband adopt a much-desired child.
Life Lesson: Always be kind and helpful. By doing this, you can make a big difference in other peoples’ lives and in your own.
4 thoughts on “Lesson Two: Make a Difference”
I am sure Sheila has thanked you a thousand times for this act of kindness….you changed her life. If we can be anything in this life…let us be kind.
Thank you for your kind comment!
I agree sometimes we have to get past our initial reactions. By knowing the back story we gain insight. Good job Nancy.
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“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
— Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater