Where will you be in 2048? Hard to say, isn’t it? It is a strange twist of fate that in spring of 1988, 30 years ago, I was right here, a senior at Goshen College. I was taking classes in Newcomer where I now teach. Looking back, I had no idea what life held for me and the things I would learn far beyond college.I felt pretty good about life in 1988. I had a job with a small, fledgling software company. My future spouse was busy commuting to her social work job in South Bend. College friends were scattering around the country launching into new careers. It all seemed pretty simple. Fast forward to the present. I have had innumerable opportunities and privileges: a fantastic spouse who has been with me through all the crazy ups and downs, two great daughters (both GC alumna) and a variety of careers that gave me chances to learn and do many different things.
As I again prepare to leave GC, I was given the opportunity to share my thoughts with Record readers. I will be passing along a few of my philosophies for life over four columns—ideas strongly influenced by the GC motto, Culture for Service and my experiences over the last 30 years.
Be kind – Such a simple idea, but sometimes a challenge to practice. Have you lived in a dorm? Eaten in the cafeteria or Leaf Raker? If so, when is the last time you sincerely thanked one of the people working behind the scenes? I recall the messes we left on our dorm floor years ago. Week after week, people cleaned it up with no thanks from us. As I traveled for work, I saw this pattern repeat itself with cleaning staff for hotel rooms or dishwashers sweating in a hot kitchen away from view. Each of these persons has a story and value. How any of us treat them reflects directly on our character. Berating the gate agent does not improve your chance to get a seat on an overbooked flight.
Pay it forward – One of the immediate results of practicing kindness is that people will want to repay you. I have written numerous letters of recommendation for students and colleagues. When they ask how they might repay me, I simply ask them to pay it forward. Kindness costs nothing but the investment yields benefits over a lifetime. Give without expecting anything in return.
Practice gratitude – Who have you thanked lately? Really thanked? If you are having a hard time coming up with someone quickly, you should consider taking a more proactive gratitude approach. Just like being kind, showing gratitude costs nothing and makes everyone involved feel better. From time to time, I receive notes of gratitude from former students. I value them greatly and pull them out for a rejuvenating reread from time to time.
It’s a wrap. Simple ideas to live by. Next week – personal development.