Sunday, April 8, 2012

Michael Josephson: Improve the world — Be nice!

  Marta was a hard-working single mother.  Last week, at church, her minister urged the congregation to improve the world by doing more to help others. He’s got to be kidding, she thought, I can barely make ends meet and provide my children with basic necessities. Still, she felt guilty – “maybe I should be doing more.” So, on the bus to work she started thinking of things she could do to help others but she felt sad and defeated by the idea of adding more obligations to her life.

  Sylvia, an elderly woman, saw the distress on Marta’s face and asked what was wrong. Marta explained her problem.  Sylvia consoled her. “I think it’s enough that you’re a good mother and a good person, but I bet you can find ways to help others more while doing what you already do.”  Marta said. “I sell hamburgers. How can I help others?”

  Sylvia replied, “Let me tell you a story. When I was a young mom with two young kids, I was on line to get some burgers and fries at a McDonald’s. My kids were restless and it took all my energy to keep them from bothering others. I felt overwhelmed.

  “When I got to the counter the lady said, ‘Excuse me, but I’ve been watching how you handled your kids...’ — and I thought,  ‘Oh no! On top of everything else I’m going to get a lecture on what a bad mom I am’ – and then she said:  ‘I just want to say you are an incredible mother. I wish I had the patience to be as loving and attentive as you. They are so lucky to have you.’

  “Well, that not only made my day, it was the encouragement  I needed and it really helped me feel okay about myself. I told everyone I knew about the nice thing the McDonald’s lady said and I remember to this day the gift she gave me.

  "What if you made a greater effort to find ways to cheer people up, encourage or compliment them? Don’t you think that could make a real difference in people’s lives?”

  “I guess so,” Marta replied, “but that’s just being nice,”.

  “Right,” said Sylvia, “Sometimes that’s all it takes. Niceness can change lives.”

  Marta looked at the old woman. “Thanks, I think I can do that. If you don’t mind me asking, how do you try to make a difference in the world? ”

  “Well, now that I’m retired,” Sylvia said, “I just ride the bus talking to people like you.”

  Mother Teresa said making a difference doesn’t require us to do great things, only little things with great love. Don’t underestimate you power to improve the world with a kind word, a cheerful hello or even a smile. It can brighten someone’s day and start a chain reaction that lights up lives.

  About the author: Michael Josephson is one of the nation’s most sought-after and quoted ethicists. Founder and president of Josephson Institute and its CHARACTER COUNTS! project, he has conducted programs for more than 100,000 leaders in government, business, education, sports, law enforcement, journalism, law, and the military. Mr. Josephson is also an award-winning radio commentator.

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