We live in a world of why bother. A society of not my problem, a system of why should I. We see it every day, over and over, people doing things in such a way that creates minor to mid-range inconveniences for other people, to save us seconds worth of effort.
We feel justified in this, because there are very few who are bucking that trend. If nobody else is doing things to avoid disrupting the routines of MY day, why should I do anything to do that for others? Really, everyone does it, right? I’m not the bad guy here; it’s not that big a deal.
But we see it, and it bothers us. But it doesn’t bother us when we are the culprits, because in this great mess that we call civilization, its par for the course. We must look out for ourselves, because nobody else is going to do it for us, and our time is precious. Spending it doing things to assist others on the piddling little details takes up our time.
But what if we all did it? What if each of us took the few extra moments to ensure life was just a fraction easier for everyone else? This would include each of us, if everyone did so. Can you imagine what it would be like?
Life is hard. So very hard. Heartbreak, illness, stress, death, betrayal, disillusionment. Our dreams all too often outstrip reality, and we find ourselves trudging through life with all the inconveniences just like sour cherries on top of our misery cake. Imagine if we, as a people, collectively worked to take off those cherries. To replace them with something that takes moments of effort, and tastes infinitely sweeter.
I am thinking that people would think “nobody else would do it.” And “I don’t have the time for that.”
Well, let me challenge you. 10 minutes. 10 dollars. 10 things. Spend 10 minutes a day making the world a better place. Spend 10 dollars a week doing the same. And spend your life on 10 things to improve YOUR life, and the ability to do the same for others.
Is 10 minutes a long time? Not really. It’s but a third of your favorite sitcom. It’s less than half of the average commute; it’s barely a blip during a movie. I will grant that it’s an eternity when in the dentists chair.
Too busy? Can’t spare 10 minutes out of your day? It’s not exactly like you have to string it together. 10 minutes, apportioned through various actions, don’t even add up quickly at all.
Let me give you an example.
Let someone step on the train ahead of you. 2 seconds. Hold the door for someone. 3 seconds. Wave the driver trying to merge in heavy traffic to get in before you. 10 seconds. Return your shopping cart back to the corral when finished. 30 seconds. Stop and help the stranger who dropped their papers on the ground pick them up. 30 seconds. Give directions. 45 seconds.
When you engage in these tiny little slivers of time, you’ve made the world around you a better place. In small imperceptible amounts, you have improved the life of those around you. And it costs you all the effort of coming out of your whirlwind of existence for the time it takes your eyes to blink a few times.
And what about the 10 dollars? It’s the same thing, using money instead of time. Cover the few coins difference on the person ahead of you when they are searching desperately for a coin in their pocket. Buy a coffee for a friend or coworker who looks like they could really use it. Grab some inexpensive candy treats to share with your team. Throw a few dollars in the homeless man’s hat. This doesn’t mean that we should all do this. If you are someone struggling to feed our families, clearly you should be on the receiving end of this type of kindness. Nor is it a maximum. Those of us blessed with the funds to afford Hugo Boss suits, Louis Vuitton handbags or vacations on big boats… we should probably toss in just a little bit more in to the pot of good will.
What does this gain us? What is the monetary return for the investment of this time or this money? Zero. Not a thing. But it’s like a glass of water to a thirsty man, and there is a great deal of thirst. As we alleviate the small, seemingly meaningless stresses and pains of each other, the world improves. Life improves.
And what about the last part? The 10 things? They are simply things that will make YOUR life better. All of which cost you nothing other than the courage to do it. Eliminating the bigger pains, makes the smaller ones so much easier to bear. Making the path of your life better, makes it more possible to go through all the daily nuisances without as much worry and angst, and can even serve as catalyst for you to do it in the first place.
This list is by no means comprehensive. There are innumerable things we could do to make our lives better. But I focus on the ones nearest to me, and that cost nothing but guts and determination.
1) Think of your worst habit. Stop doing it.
2) Eliminate the toxic people from your life. Do not allow those who would use you poorly, to remain. You are worth more than that. Don’t give them a chance to do it to you again.
3) Allow the good people in to your life. This will cost you time, but it is time well spent. We only have so many years, fill them with people worth being around or with.
4) Rest. Stop everything for a few moments every day. Sleep just a few minutes more each night.
5) Play. Don’t grow up all the way, ever. Seek laughter.
6) Read. Learn. Understand more.
7) Express what you are really feeling to those you trust. Don’t hide behind social niceties.
8) Do not allow injustice to stand. If something is wrong, speak up.
9) Forgive yourself. Each of you will know what you need to forgive yourselves of. Then go on to deserve that forgiveness.
10) Plan epic things you want to do. Do them.
I would be a hypocrite to say that I have accomplished any of this. That I always manage to give 10 minutes up freely. That I remember that I’m not the only one going through endless nuisance. That I always remember that my money isn’t that valuable. And that list I put only shows me how many things that I have yet to do.
But close your eyes for 5 seconds (you can even take it from the 10 minutes for today) and imagine what life would be like if we all did this. Then go out and be one of those who do.