I’ve gone back and forth on sharing this interaction today with the fear that it’ll be taken as a “look at me” sort of thing. Please trust me that it’s not. I’m an attention whore in plenty of other ways. =)
I found myself with some extra time this morning, so I went to Starbucks, grabbed a coffee and walked across the street to a park along the St. Johns River. Memorial Park is my favorite park in Jacksonville. I just casually walked around the sidewalk loop, taking in my surroundings. It was a beautiful day outside. Beautiful clouds, beautiful blue sky, beautiful trees.
As I continued around the park and began to head to my next meeting, I walked by two men sitting on a bench. One of them greeted me, saying it was a cold day out. I greeted him back and agreed. He asked if I had a few dollars to spare, but I had no cash. As I walked off, he mentioned that coffee would be good. I stopped and offered him my coffee. I hadn’t even had a sip, but he declined repeatedly. As I walked off again, he mentioned getting something to eat.
I decided that I could take the time out of my day to make it happen. It might make me a few minutes late, but it would be worth it. And I could afford it. Publix was just across the street, so I walked over and bought some chicken, as the man had suggested, and walked it back to the park. Both of the men were so thankful. I shook their hands, we all said “God bless” and I rushed back to my car and to my next meeting.
So why am I telling you this story if not for some self-glorifying purpose? Because I want you to look up. Look up from your phone or your tablet. Look up from your book. Look up to the sky. To the trees. To the clouds. To the stars. Look around. Take in your surroundings. Take deep breaths. See others. Smile at others. Greet others. Talk to strangers. Make connections — and not just ones that will benefit you professionally. Smile more. Daydream more. Steal time for yourself. Very few of us are as necessarily busy as we think we are.
I’m fortunate to now work at a place that values giving back. Being selfless. Literally giving someone the coat off your back. We call it ‘living the Mission.’ It’s not just some catchy phrase we use to brand ourselves. It’s legit. We smile at each other in the hallways. We learn from each other. And it’s not always perfect or productive, but it frequently is. And you know what? It’s infectious. The professional becomes personal. You become a better person.
I want to pay more attention to life. And — despite what many sources may tell you — reading social media isn’t living. Salivating over the next piece of celebrity gossip — or gossip in your own life — isn’t living. Taking pictures for Instagram isn’t living. Being in the moment is living. Giving back is living. Loving others is living.
I heard a great speaker last night talk about living in the moment. One of her many points was that we get so caught up in where we want to go — what may be next — that we completely ignore where we are. We lie to ourselves and pretend life is all about the future. I’ll spare you a RENT quote right now, but here’s the reality: All we have is now. Right now. This moment. So stop waiting for how your life is going to look next year. Stop making excuses. It’s time we just make things happen. Even if it’s just some hot fried chicken on a cold winter day for a couple of men who are hungry and hopeful that someone will help them.
Can I help everyone I want to help right now? No. But can I do better? Absolutely. And so can you.