A Re-booter’s Responsibility: Expressing Goodwill

No matter where we are on the re-booting spectrum, whether it’s early on in the process or we find ourselves comfortably ensconced in our efforts at implementing change, there’s one thing that applies wherever we may be: acknowledging the goodwill shown to us and paying it forward. As troubled or frustrated as we may feel about certain aspects of life, there are always people around us whose concern and support helps ease our struggles. Whether it’s listening to us moan and complain, providing food and shelter when funds run low, driving us to the doctor, reading a friend’s manuscript, agreeing to meet for an informational interview, or just checking in to let us know we’re not forgotten, these gestures should not be minimized by us.


We all know what it’s like to wrestle with life and feel hurt; at times such as these, it’s easy to fall victim to the belief that we’re alone, powerless, and afraid. What we forget is how often watching another person suffer this way can frighten those around them into silence—not because others don’t care, but because they don’t know what to do. Can you think of a time when you didn’t know how to help someone who was hurting? It’s distressing, isn’t it?


Which is why it’s that much more important for us to receive and be grateful for those small acts of amity others do bestow upon us, because not everyone has the courage to extend themselves this way. Is what I’m saying making sense? These gestures don’t have to change our life to be worthwhile. I know that for me, as I’ve struggled along my re-booting path, I’ve been deeply grateful for the goodwill others have provided—whether it’s comforting me when I cry, brainstorming strategies about finding work, treating me to dinners out, or simply letting me know they value this blog. I still have to solve this problem on my own, but hearing how others care for me, knowing that I haven’t been abandoned when it feels as if everything in my life is going wrong or stalling out, reminds me that even the struggling version of who I am, the one with frizzy hair and three dollars in her wallet—remains cherished by and important to some. And this knowledge gives me that extra dose of courage to believe in myself.


By the same token, my ability to express goodwill towards others is equally important. Giving to others reminds me that even when so much of my life is in tatters, I can be helpful, as well. I, too, can listen and advise about work or family issues. I can distract with funny stories as we take a walk. I can help clear overstuffed closets or figure out how to navigate the airline’s bonus miles website. Being there, for those I care about, giving the parts of myself I have to give, not only helps them when they need it, it reminds me that I bring my own set of talents and skills to the table. That’s a win-win, right? In our own humble way, we are each like the Little Drummer Boy.


The reason I bring this up is that it is easy for us to forget how much meaning and comfort small gestures can bring. It’s valuable to express goodwill—whether it’s opening the door for another person, offering our seat on the Metro to a pregnant woman, taking a buddy out for a beer, or fixing a jammed dvd player. These modest acts of humanity are beneficial for the giver and the receiver. Too often, we hesitate, afraid to sit by the overly talkative (and lonely) committee member, not wanting to suffer the inconvenience of their babble. Or we stop ourselves, concerned that by inquiring about a sensitive situation we may re-injure the person who’s suffering. And, yes, we will make missteps on occasion, but they won’t be serious. Certainly not so serious that we should opt for saying nothing, allowing the opportunity to reach out to our brethren pass unacknowledged.


My homework assignment for you, my fellow re-booters, is to reflect upon the last time someone did something for you that you really appreciated. Remember how grateful you felt? Have you told them how much their efforts meant to you? How might you pay such goodwill forward today—whether acknowledged or not? A re-booter’s responsibility is to help lift the tide.


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