He always had a smile playing around the corners of his mouth ready to burst into that full fledged humorous smile that made others around him smile in spite of themselves. He had a sparkle in his eyes and a jaunty spring to his step. He had a gift for seeing the humor in almost any situation and was quick to point it out.
He always had a kind word for people; always encouraging others and he seemed to know when you needed it the most. He was the kind of person that caused you to become better just by being around him.
He was optimistic about the future and was always “planting trees” for the next generation. He didn’t look back, but was always looking expectantly towards the horizon.
When I was first privileged to meet him, he was already well into his 70’s and had retired from his vocational job many years before. In his 70’s he was a “younger” and more optimistic person than most 20-year olds. He had endured much and walked with a limp due to a German machine-gun bullet that had gone through both of his legs.
We both sat on the governing body of a nonprofit as volunteers and had no formal authority as individuals. Many times our meetings got quite lively if you know what I mean. Yet when that gentle man quietly started to speak, all the noise, all the fuss stopped as everyone waited to hear what he had to say. Just a few quiet words of wisdom from that man changed the direction of many meetings – in a good way.
He was a man of integrity, a man of honor, a man of wisdom, who cared for people, who cared for the truth, was passionate about the mission, and was ever looking forward. He was a leader because of who he was, not because of any title.
I miss Mr. Al and I want to be like him when “I grow up”.
Does that sound a bit odd saying to not be nice? Actually, I am not sure yet if it is the best word yet for what I am trying to communicate.
In the nonprofit world especially, but often in business settings, I have found that people avoid saying what others need to hear or that we avoid dealing with difficult subjects as we don’t want to cause waves or disrupt the harmony (supposedly) of the team. What it actually means is that we try to avoid things that are emotionally uncomfortable for us. Get that last point – “for us”? Being nice, usually means not placing ourselves in a place of emotional discomfort – it’s all about us – not the other person.
Being kind on the other hand, is about doing what is best for the other person, even if it is emotionally uncomfortable, because you place their well-being above your own emotional comfort. Sometimes being kind doesn’t feel kind, especially when you are challenging a friend or co-worker to a higher standard that you know they could and should meet. It’s about challenging a family member to a higher standard. It’s about confronting someone you care about who has habits/behaviors that are detrimental to their well-being.
So, stop being nice (concerned about your own emotional comfort) and start being kind (being concerned for the well-being of others). Do what is right today.
As leaders, there are some things that we just forget to say or that we somehow don’t think we need to or should say. That’s a mistake. In her article on the Inc. site Maria Tabaka lists four statements that she has found to be powerful and necessary.
1. I’m sorry
2. I was wrong
3. I need help
4. I don’t know
These seem pretty simple and obvious right? Yet, somehow they are difficult for us to use sometimes, especially when we are the leader.
If you are not using these simple words on a regular basis, maybe it’s time to find out why and then to start using them. They are powerful.
Do you have a problem being “nice” instead of being “kind”? What’s the difference?
It seems in non-profits and churches we often confuse the two. The issue is that sometimes a true act of kindness doesn’t feel very kind so we move to being nice. For this conversation, I am using “nice” to describe those times in an organization when we avoid dealing with hard issues, we avoid confronting people in love because we want to preserve harmony (even though it is a false harmony). So instead of acting kindly towards another person, we act nicely. We avoid the issue and even often give people a false impression of how they are doing thinking that if we just encourage them, they are bound to get better.
A true act of kindness is when you care enough about another person to come alongside them and tell them hard things that will result in them growing and becoming more effective in their ministry / work. Avoiding doing so is not kindness and not even being nice – it is really an act of selfishness in that you don’t want to go through the tension of dealing with a difficult subject. That is not love or kindness, that is self-centeredness.
So be truly kind to those you serve with by looking out for them and being willing to engage with them on difficult subjects. Be truly kind because ou love them and want to see them grow.
By the way – when someone confronts you, take it as an act of kindness and thank them as it took courage for them to approach you.
Good morning – unusually mild and great weather here in southwest Michigan for this time of year. As a transplanted Southerner, I surely don’t mind!
Little things matter and I saw a couple of great examples of that this weekend. Every
Saturday morning Angela and I have a breakfast date at LePeep Cafe in downtown South Bend. They have great food, but what we really enjoy is the atmosphere in the cafe. Lots of light, great seating, nice layout and so on, but it’s the people that make the difference. One of the small things they do is a huge thing to me. There is this sweet elderly couple that comes every Saturday morning as well. Every time the staff seats them, they bring out a very nice and pretty seat cushion for the lady that they keep there just for her. If the owner, Peg, is there she usually seats them. A small thing, but huge in caring for people.
Angela is also good at the small things. We were at another restaurant that we enjoy and Angela remembered our server and her story. She is a recent graduate of Notre Dame about to start her masters program and an aspiring opera singer woking as a server at the restaurant. Angela remembered her story and that she was supposed to take a trip back South for Christmas. When Angela asked her about her trip and her life, the young lady’s face just lit up and she shared about her trip to see her family. A small thing, but a huge thing. Angela blessed her by paying attention to her.
Are you paying attention to the small things in other people’s lives? In your work? In your ministry? Sometimes a very small thing can be a very large blessing to someone. Take time today and notice the small things and do something small to bless someone else. You will be blessed.