Often, I catch myself saying something to my kids that my parents used to tell me. Sometimes in the same tone and manner. Sometimes it’s even a bit uncanny. Recently, I started to tell my kids something my parents used to tell me before I left for friends’ houses growing up. It was, “Before you come home, make sure you leave the house better than you found it.” It is certainly not something new or unique to our family, in fact, it’s also the number one rule of camping: always leave your campsite better than you’ve found it.
Though this phrase is not uncommon, I’m thankful I heard these words and they were passed on to me. Not only because my three little ones can certainly make a mess, but because of how transferable this way of thinking is. To our family. To a campsite. To the workplace. To how you live your life and treat others. And to society as a whole.
And while at the time I may not have realized the broader applications this phrase seemingly has, I am beginning to recognize the depth of their impact now.
That simple saying taught me to look beyond the messes I would create, and proactively see additional areas to improve and make my surroundings better. To observe, spot the differences, take in the outliers, and anticipate needs and meet them.
What I’m realizing now as an adult is to continue to think this way, but broaden my perspective. Removing the pride of “it’s not my job”. Shifting my thinking to take on the role of acting like an owner. Not in a pretentious way, but in seeing the problem areas, the challenges, the messes and not allowing them to continue. Instead, to roll up my sleeves and take it on when no one else might notice them. To positively improve those in my circles of influence.
Something as simple as picking up the water bottle that seemingly missed the recycle bin. Wiping down the crumbs, fingerprints and condensation rings on the Chif-Fil-A table after the family eats. Or, just keeping my head up and out of the phone to notice someone that might just need eye contact and connection with a smile.
Such a simple statement. And though the footprint we leave behind may be minimal, the impact can be profound.