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“gold-colored Olympics medallion” by Charles Deluvio 🇵🇭🇨🇦 on Unsplash

“Whatever You Are, Be a Good One”

-Abraham Lincoln

These words are printed on a magnet in my kitchen. Though usually covered by a chaotic collage of my daughter’s artwork, school reminders and the other miscellaneous crap that somehow always ends up on our refrigerator, this morning it was visible, and I read it for the first time in a while. And just like every time I read it, I thought to myself what a great piece of advice it really is.

The words sparked a memory from over 20 years ago that I hadn’t thought of in a long time. I was at a friend’s house, one who still lived with his mother, and although he probably had the means to live on his own, they helped each other out. She had struggled with a heroin addiction since his childhood but was in recovery and had been clean for a couple of months. She was on methadone and had a job for the first time in years at a nearby gas station.

While my friend and I were sitting in the living room, she came in, set up an ironing board and began carefully ironing her work shirt. She even used spray starch to make sure she was getting out all the wrinkles. It struck me as odd; her taking that much care with such an unattractive smock. But when she was finished, she held it up with pride and said, “Ah, there. Perfect.” And then she said, “I love my job.”

What? I remember thinking. You love your job at a gas station? She told me that she loved talking to all the different types of people that she saw every day. Her boss was nice, and she had recently received the employee of the month award of which she was very proud.

Thinking back, I realize that while years of addiction had caused her to look much older, she was about the age that I am now and at 43 most people would see her working a job like that as a failure. They’d see it as a position that no one would want. But she was excelling in it. Absent was the attitude of it’s a dirty job but somebody’s gotta do it and in its place was pride.

How different would the world be if we all had that attitude towards what we do in the numerous roles that we play every single day?

In any given week I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, and a neighbor. And I could probably be better at all of them, and those are just my personal relationships.

I can wipe off the weight bench at the gym when I’m done like the sign asks and be a little more appreciative of the office staff when I call the school. I can make somebody’s day brighter by tipping an extra dollar at dinner or by asking how someone’s day is when I pay for my coffee and caring about their response.

I can be more thoughtful as a shopper by putting something back where it goes if I’ve decided that I don’t want to buy it after all or by having a little more patience with the customer service rep who had nothing to do with creating my problem but is doing everything they can to fix it.

Think of what a different experience you would have if when you asked an employee for help at your local grocery store they didn’t act as if you were inconveniencing them. Or if the person who delivered your Amazon package took the extra 20 seconds to put it by your front door when it’s raining instead of just tossing it on the bottom step and letting the box get soaked.

We are all going to have bad days, and we’re not always going to put on our best face, but we can all try harder. Imagine what a different place our world would be if we all tried to be good at whatever we were being at the moment.

I’ve decided to keep that magnet front and center going forward to remind me to make the effort each day to make my little piece of the world just a little bit better.