Friday, February 6, 2009

GEMs for Kirsty

Today is my friend Kirsty's birthday (Happy Birthday Kirsty!). We've been talking together on the mom's board for our eight-year-olds for nearly nine years now. In her usual kind and generous manner, Kirsty asked her friends to help celebrate her birthday by doing something to make the world better. The problem is that she asked people to post about what they were going to do and then post about what they did on her birthday. I'm great at planning but suck at follow-through. Therefore, I didn't post ahead of time. I couldn't decide what to do and if I did, I would no doubt forget to do it.

As I was running errands today, it finally came to me - for Kirsty's birthday, I'm going to get this particular blog entry idea out of my head and into cyberspace. Here it goes: to help make the world a better place (for you, for others, for Kirsty, for everyone), Go the Extra Mile (GEM). It's easy, it's free, and you don't always have to do it. Just make an effort (ME time? Unfortunately, Nike already has rights to Just Do It.).

From my perspective, being a GEM involves doing the little things - hold the door open for someone; put the shopping cart back in its place; pick up after yourself; let someone go in front of you; smile at a stranger in the mall; pay someone a compliment; thank someone for good service; anything that can make someones' day better. It's generally not a difficult thing, yet so many people seem unwilling to make even the smallest effort. We all have our days - that's a given. But, if people make the effort most of the time, the little things get done. It's the little things that matter, right?

For example, the woman in line in front of me at the store spent the entire time at checkout talking on the phone, then moved off to the side right by the carts to continue the conversation. She left her own cart in front of the register, blocking me from getting to the counter and forcing the cashier to take the time to put it away. Exactly how difficult would it have been to take the cart with her and put it away? Not at all. It was frustrating and amusing to both me and the cashier. The cashier said she sees that kind of behavior all the time. I'm not even going to get into discussion of basic manners (although, if you're interested, the Best of Craigslist has several cashier rants).

The GEM discussion is ongoing in our family, although I haven't really called it that before. I think the kids get it. They're generally helpful to each other and others. Again, they have their moments too. But, the other day K came home from school with her usual good grades/good citizen award (yeah K!). It's a nice thing to give the kids. She mentioned that another kid had received a special award for helping to stack the chairs after some event. This puzzled her - she does that sort of thing all the time and gets no special recognition, nor does she expect it. Someone has to stack the chairs, so she helps out. She was similarly surprised when she got a special shout-out for helping with the mini-swim team at practice time. Her sister is on it and she thought that, of course, older kids should help the younger ones. I am so darned proud of her, I could burst. This is the attitude we're trying to foster - if the work needs to be done, just do it. Do it without the expectation of awards, rewards, or recognition. Not every effort needs to be celebrated. Doing good should be its own reward.

That said, giving out the occasional award to someone who is "just doing their job" can enlighten others and maybe encourage them to try and do the same. The recent great works of Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberg are fine examples of how to go the extra mile. Most people are familiar with his successful ditching of a commercial aircraft on the Hudson River. Less publicized was his later call to his local library, explaining that his library book was still in the plane's cargo hold and would be late. He asked that the library give him an extension of the loan and waive the overdue fees. The library did him one better, waiving the overdue and book replacement fees, and deciding to place a dedication template in the replacement copy. The book's subject: professional ethics. Sully is a true GEM. We need more people like him.


Kirsty said...

YOU are a gem! Thank you so much Julie! I loved reading this and I feel so strongly that the world could be an infinitely better place if everyone did just one thing to GEM every day. More then anything, when you do things like that it makes YOU feel happy and better about yourself and it is self perpetuating. I think about this all the time and am so grateful to you for getting it "out there". thanks for making my birthday so special!! I feel blessed to have you in my life.

Stef said...

Awee thats a great blog!!! I have had it in my mind as well and your blog just encourages me to really want to get out there and GEM the world!!!! What a great read Julie!!!