“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank
Fresh out of school at the University of Nebraska with degrees in Banking and Finance, I went to work as an intern at a large church in Omaha, NE. It was a fantastic experience. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I was given early in my development.
At one point, during a meeting with over 20 pastors, the Senior Pastor made a statement I remember almost 15 years later. In fact, I can still remember the room, where I was sitting, and where he was standing. He said quite simply, “I try to leave every room I enter a little bit better than how I found it.”
Not necessarily brand-new information about personal responsibility, but there was something in his sincerity that made the message stick. He continued on to list specific examples from his life about putting this into action: rooms in his house, rooms in the church, even public restrooms.
“My goal is to leave the room just a little bit nicer for the next person.”
Interestingly enough, when he was finished, he led each of the 20+ pastors outside to the parking lot where we picked up every piece of trash laying in the parking lot. Lesson learned and apparently, never forgotten.
I try to live by this principle. Granted, I don’t always succeed. But when I am mindful of my surroundings, I find it is not too difficult to complete. It takes far less energy than most people think to pick up a piece of trash, straighten some chairs, clear some clutter, or wipe down the counter in a restroom (private or public). And the benefits of this habit for others, for ourselves, and for society in general are highly significant. Every walk in the park, ride on a trail, or hike up a mountain is an opportunity to leave a place better than we found it.
But recently, I’ve been trying to be mindful of this practice not just in physical places but in each of life’s spaces as well.
Its application is possible (and beneficial) in nearly every interaction we encounter. Every relationship is an opportunity to leave others better than we found them. Every conversation at the market, library, or street corner is an opportunity to brighten somebody’s day. Every meeting or assigned project at work is an opportunity to move progress forward. Even every posting on Facebook or social media carries the same potential.
Ultimately, in the end, may our families be better because we were a part of them. May our neighborhoods and schools be better because of our involvement. And may our world be left in a better condition for future generations because we were a part of this one.