I have heard that there is a meditation that is usually done on your deathbed, where you reflect on three good things that you have done for other people in your life.
What a lovely way to go, reflecting on the good that you brought into the world, for other people. I read recently that, when you do good for other people, it sets off the chemical reactions in your brain that cause joy. Wouldn’t you much rather, when you leave this world, with your dying breath feel joy? As opposed to fear, worry, regret, anger? All the possessions you accrue, all the accolades, all the power, will not bring you joy when are leaving this world. You cannot bring them with you. But joy… who knows…
Yesterday three things brought me this joy. First, a colleague who I had coached earlier in the week on a presentation that she’s working on, thanked me again for my help, saying something like, “You blew the top of my head off with your advice.” I don’t think I advised – I think I asked questions that made her rethink her approach and she made the leap on her own. She’s smart that way. I’m excited to see where she takes this.
Then I was privileged to watch another colleague, who I had also advised on a presentation, successfully give that presentation. Thank you for the guidance, he said afterwards, I feel like we needed that. It was just a nudge; he made it work.
And then, out of the blue, I received a message through social media from a woman who I had worked with when I was 21 years old. She said she remembered my attention to detail and training, and talked about it with her team, as she worked to emulate my management style. She thanked me for seeing (and acting on) her ability to lead and helping her get her first promotion, helping her see that she could be “more.” And looking at her LinkedIn profile, she is so much “more” than she was then. Even then she was impressive, but slim and quiet and pastel. Now she is fabulous and fierce, and she looks unstoppable.
The truth is, I don’t feel like I made these people succeed. A gardener can make sure seeds receive water or remove weeds that might otherwise overshadow them. But we cannot force a plant to flower – that has to come from the plant itself. In my life, I have been blessed to be surrounded by truly awesome seeds.
This reminds me of an afternoon I spent with my sister a few years ago. It was a hot summer day and she invited me to keep her company as she weeded the lawn in her backyard. “It’s these darn purple weeds,” she said, yanking up another and tossing it into a wheelbarrow. I looked closely at the tiny plants poking up through the grass and tree roots.
“Grape hyacinth,” I said.
“Whatever. I think they blow in from the yard next door.” And she yanked up another. “They’re all over my backyard.”
“It’s not a weed,” I told her gently. “It’s a flower.”
“A flower!” She paused, gazed down at the purple invader in her hand. I could almost see things readjusting in her mind. “Oh.”
Her afternoon chore shifted from weeding to transplanting – moving the flowers from the middle of her lawn, to the side bed she had never been quite sure what to do with.
We are all surrounded by flowers. We just may not realize it until we take a second look.