By Angela Noel
Reaching out is an extension of self. It’s an effort to go beyond the comfortable, or the normal, and do something extraordinary. Folks like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Bill and Melinda Gates, Amma, and Martin Luther King do big things and impact millions. In our community, everyday heroes like social workers, foster parents, directors of non-profits, and pastors, have chosen lives of service. Still others volunteer their time at places like their kids’ schools, Meals on Wheels, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or Second Harvest Heartland. All are meaningful. All represent an extension of self to benefit the wider world.
But this post isn’t about that kind of extraordinary.
Extraordinary can mean just a little extra, as poet Emily Dickenson explains
They Might Not Need Me-Yet They Might #1391
They might not need me; but they might.
I’ll let my Head be just in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.
Reaching out means recognizing that you and I affect people. We impact the world around us, whether we’re conscious of it or not. We don’t know how the little things we do (or don’t do) change the course of someone’s day, or even someone’s life. Reaching out is about conscious efforts to be a positive force; no matter how inconsequential it may seem at the time.
Here are five simple ways to reach out:
- Show up. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project says, “Whenever you have the chance to see other people, take it.” Stop by a co-workers desk and invite him or her to grab a coffee. Accept an invitation to see a friend’s band play at an open mic night. Or try something bolder. When I moved into a new neighborhood, I used the Nextdoor app to invite other moms in the neighborhood to meet up for a park play date. Three moms, kiddos in tow, arrived to welcome us to the neighborhood. Showing up is about both inviting and accepting the invitation to create or deepen connections.
- Extend Respect. Zappos, famous for their unorthodox hiring practices, screened out-of-town candidates coming in to their Nevada headquarters in a particularly interesting way. Tired from travel and anxious about interviewing, prospective employees were picked up by a Zappos van. The candidate could dazzle the hiring managers, but veto power rested with the van driver. If the driver didn’t get a good vibe, if the candidate hadn’t treated him or her with respect, that person didn’t get the job. No matter how frustrated, how tired, or upset we might be by something, everyone deserves respect. Reaching out can be as simple as stepping outside of our personal drama, even if—especially if—it’s really, really hard.
- Courageous Listening. A senior corporate leader focusing on diversity and inclusion recently spoke about the importance of listening without trying to convince others to accept a particular point of view. She called it courageous listening. Listening can be a courageous act when done with empathy. When we listen courageously, we open our hearts to a different point of view with the intent to understand, not necessarily to agree.
- Be a First Follower. Viewed by over five million people, entrepreneur Derek Silvers, gave a talk on how to start a movement using a wonderful video of a dancing guy at a concert. The shirtless guy dances in a field while onlookers giggle and point. A second guy joins him, and this is where the magic happens. “The first follower,” Silver says, “is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.” It takes guts to follow the crazy guy or gal. Leading isn’t always about being first, it’s about being willing to follow, support, and advocate. Let your name be the first on the list for a new class the studio is offering. Be the first to buy a self-published author’s book. Celebrate the efforts of others, by being the first in line to appreciate their unique contribution to the world.
- What Are You Most Excited About? Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and Eat Pray Love, recently gave a talk. In it, she spoke about the effect of typical get-to-know-you questions. Questions like, “What do you do?” turned conversations into transactions, not interactions. Because her life philosophy is all about creativity and inspiration, a transactional encounter offered no joy. She decided instead to ask people she met a different question: What are you most excited about? As a result, she heard emotional stories about dream jobs, children, families, pain, and delight.
Other movements like Kalina Silverman’s Make Big Talk is all about giving up “small talk” for more meaningful, significant connections. She’s even created a card game to be used in classrooms, on first dates, or with co-workers. Asking questions, like Liz Gilbert’s or from Kalina Silverman’s deck of cards, lead to uncovering not only the extraordinary in others, but in ourselves as well.
I love Emily Dickinson’s poem for the words she doesn’t say. She gives no outcome, no end to the story. There is no reward for the smile that may or may not be someone’s “necessity.” We don’t know if her efforts resulted in anything at all. But that’s not the point. Reaching out isn’t about what we get when we give. It’s about giving what we have, whenever we have it, just in case.
Continue to follow The Inspired Life Blog as we dive into each Pillar that the Moksha/Modo community is built on. Be sure to check out the Be Healthy and Live to Learn posts, and let us know ways you live out each pillar in your own life!
Angela Noel lives and writes in Minneapolis. In between fiction projects, she posts inspiring stories about interesting ideas and compelling people on the You are Awesome blog. She enjoys yoga and loves books, humans, wine, and chocolate (but not necessarily in that order). Connect with her on Twitter at @angiewrite or subscribe to her blog for a new post each week.