Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sat 9/27/2003 6:04 AM
Random Thought: Doing Good

We were rushing to synagogue for Rosh Hashonah evening services last night. Susan had set the alarm. I went to turn off the television. Just as I was about to hit the remote, someone called a "faith partner," was saying that if he and his wife could help one person out of poverty it would change generations to come. That brief comment stuck with me throughout services last night because only yesterday morning, as I was coming down the hallway a got an uplifting. A student opened the door for me. She smiled. She looked familiar. She introduced herself. I hadn't seen her for four years. She said that she was graduating in December. I asked her what she was going to do. She proudly told me she was hired by the Atlanta Falcons' publicity office. The vision of complimentary tickets flashed across my impish mind. Then, she hit me with a ton of bricks, very nice bricks.

"I've been looking for you. I'm going around to the two or three people on this campus who made a real difference in my life. You're one of them. You asked me what I was going to do. You've taught it is more important to think about who I want to be. I'd like to just talk with you next week and tell you how much you've meant to me."

Surprised, stunned, as I stuttered to utter a "thank you," I have to admit that a wave of gratification and fulfillment swept over me. I think, if it wasn't for leaving my family, I would have died happy at that moment.

Is it a sign of aging--"maturing" sounds better-- that I am measuring myself less and less by the length of my resume, and measuring more and more what I do by the good I am doing, by the significance of what I am doing, by the how much I matter, by the extent to which I am enriching lives through service?

The irony is that living a professional life focused on service to students is quite self-centered. It simply feels good, very good to do good, to matter, and to make a difference. It's so much more gratifying than one devoted to the research, publication, promotion, appointment, reward treadmill. Making a positive difference creates a feeling of gratification that's hard, almost impossible, to get from a publication or a grant or a promotion. I'm not talking about pleasure or even satisfaction; I'm talking about fulfillment.

And do you want to know the secret? The route to significance isn't long and convoluted or even difficult, for the ground doesn't have to quiver for an earth-shaking event to occur. Every act has an impact on someone. Everything we say and do sends a message to someone. Every act, every signal, every message that has a positive impact on someone's life is significant. It doesn't take much strength to lift a lid and it doesn't take much time uplift someone. It doesn't take much time to be significant.

And you don't have to have a life-long impact. One day, even a moment in that day, will do. We each can do things that are significant every day for that day: a kind compliment, a spark of hope, a smile, a simple "hello," a "thank you," a gesture of faith and belief, an encouraging word, a few seconds of listening, a light touch of support, making a student feel wanted and valuable. Anything that brightens and lightens a day of anyone whom you meet, anything that will help a student help him/herself become the person he or she is capable of becoming, will do. And yet, I have discovered that as a simple act of kindness or respect or mindfulness or love becomes a habit, those little things will become more frequent. They will almost unconsciously natural. They will become an imperative. They will grow in size. That momentary impact will lengthen in something that lasts a lifetime, and you will make the world a better place. Then, your legacy will match that of the greatest of philanthropists.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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