A Lasting Touch

A Lasting Touch

“The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

His smile was evident behind the voice on the phone. We were having a conversation as if we were friends sharing a cup of coffee. John was the technician at the Help Desk when I called because of an issue with one of my websites, and he immediately put me at ease with his words, his tone, and his smile. He could have been like Bradbury’s lawn cutter and just fixed my issue, but he behaved more like a gardener and left an impression for a lifetime (or at least for a few months).

I’m a smiler. As long as I can remember, I’ve been one. It just shows up on my face whether I’m driving, talking on the phone, or writing. I’m not sure why, and not everyone appreciates it, but I’m probably not changing after all these years. Smiling is one way we impact other people. Scowling is, too. We get to choose whether we want to be a smiler or a scowler. It begins with a simple question, “Who do I want to be?” followed by an intention. What really matters, though, is this truth: we are impacting other people (and ourselves) through something as simple as our facial expression, tone of voice, and body language.

Few of us will be Nobel Peace Prize winners, having our names in history books as people who made huge changes in the world, but we can write our names in the lives of the people around us. We can be thought of as the grumpy man or crabby woman no matter how many donations of time and money we make, or we might prefer to be seen as the thoughtful, friendly, compassionate person, whose contributions are secondary. If you take pride in being grumpy or crabby because you believe you’ve ‘earned the right’, you might consider changing your tune.

Even though we can and do impact others through choices we make, like donating, recycling, composting, eating less, not dumping, and the like, it is who we are as people that immediately impacts those around us, so let’s start there and address the other areas as the year progresses.

Think about people you enjoy (pause to think) and then about people you not only don’t enjoy but avoid (pause again). What draws you to a person and what pushes you away? I might initially be put off by a person’s appearance, but if they speak kindly and smile, I look right past a rough exterior. The opposite is also true — a person might have a polished appearance but speak rudely and have an angry look on their face, I look right past the attractive exterior. I’m betting you do, too.

What is it about us that impacts the people around us?

  • Mood. If we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, we negatively impact everyone we meet with our bad mood. But we get a choice of what we offer people. Maybe you need to play some happy music to help your mood, research says it works.
  • Words. The tone of voice, the amount of sarcasm offered, and the general way we feel about the person to whom we are speaking all carry a lot of weight. This can have a huge positive impact or a lasting negative impact. Think about how you speak to people in your home or work or volunteer activities. Have you made a name for yourself as the one ready with a putdown or the one ready with some encouraging word?
  • Grace. People have bad days. You do and I do, and we typically expect others to forgive our bad mood or snippy words, or distracted attention. It is grace that we need to keep in our back pocket when we witness these things in another person.

In our home, there are only two of us now. I think about how easily I might disregard my husband’s need for a pleasant person. And the lawn cutter? We both cut the lawn, and it’s always nice when it’s cut, but the work of a gardener is much different, more meaningful, requires a special touch. It’s the same with us. We can go through life just cutting lawns, or we can touch people’s lives in a way that lets them know we care, and our positive impact will last so much longer.

2019 is going to be full of opportunities to discuss the many ways we impact the earth, the world, and the people in the next town. Your resume’ of helping people on mission trips clear across the world is great, but we really need to begin with the people closest to us. What a magnificent way to begin a new year — setting the intention to have a positive impact right where we are. Because remember this — you will have an impact on people. You get the joy of choosing what kind it will be.

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