Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Value added

I recently attended the Global Leadership Summit, but via videocast here at home. There were lots of take-home points for me, but I'll share one with you now.

How can you add value to other people's lives?

I was struck by this simple idea - starting every day by thinking and praying through all the meetings I would have, people whose lives I would touch in some way, and thinking about ways I could add value to their lives. (Obviously, the point is then to act on whatever you have thought about!)

Since then, I have made this our nightly opening question at the dinner table. How did you add value today?

Some days it has been easy to answer. Other days, it has been nigh on impossible to think of how I have added value. Whatever the outcome though, I have found the process of reflection eye-opening. I'm not so good with starting the day with reflection, and planning ways I might add value. That's something I am working on though. However, the nightly reflection is starting to affect my daily routines.

Today, instead of giving up on a particularly difficult student who messed up yet again (which is what my natural inclination was), I found myself able to reflect in the moment on my own behaviour and choose a different response that would be more helpful to the student. I found myself able to engage in conversation that, I hope, added value. For me, that's quite a milestone.

One of the secrets of adding value is that it doesn't have to be focussed on evangelism and eternal destinies. Opening a door for someone, smiling at someone, making someone feel seen or heard or loved or appreciated - these all add value. Of course, the ultimate value we can add is to help others to make the choice to step over the line of faith, so I'm not discounting that;

But I have found such freedom in thinking about how to add value to the cashier, or waiter, or petrol pump attendant I come across during my week. Of course, Bill Hybels talks about this same concept (albeit using different words) in his book 'Walk across the room', which is about personal evangelism. I know that for some people this stuff is 2nd nature, and I know that this is stuff I have known about before, but for some reason, at this stage and season of my life and walk with God, this concept has become totally fresh for me; revelatory, in fact.

So I challenge you - how are you adding value to those around you (not just your friends and family, although you should add value to their lives as well!) on a daily basis? And how can you get better at this?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Another brick in the wall

On a recent walk with the dogs I come across several new pieces of graffiti - including one that said 'vandalism is bad'. Yes, well, enough said, right?

One that got me thinking though, on a high brick wall, was 'Don't be just another brick in the wall'. Ironically, the wall was right next to a school.... (All together now...) We don't need no education....  We don't need no thought control....

But I got to thinking about the bricks in the wall. The lie told to the youth today is that you do all be whatever you want to be. This is, patently, a lie. Just like the lie that everyone can be a leader. If everyone was a leader, who would they lead? While there has been much research to try to determine whether every child truly has the same potential at birth, and if so, how to maximize it for every child, the reality is that all children do not start out win the same potential at birth, but also that whatever potential a child may have at birth, the circumstances whole growing it will often determine the end product. Of course there are exceptions, but then, every rule has its exception.

So, coming back to the bricks... If every brick tried to be a bird, there would be no walls. And walls can be good. Walls serve to protect - and I'm not just thinking about protection from crime. Walls protect against wind, and storms, and adverse weather. They can provide shade from the summer sun, and radiate heat on cold nights. Walls are good things. Every brick in a wall serves a noble purpose, but only provided that the wall was erected for a noble purpose. Aspiring to be a brick is a noble calling.

The problem, then, is not whether you are a brick or not, but which wall you are part of. Are you part of a wall that protects and shelters, or one that divides and contributes to increased fear? And how does the brick know? And does the brick really get much of a choice?

If the builder is the one who selects the bricks, and determines the purpose for the wall, then the real question becomes which builder are you in the hands of? One who builds for a noble purpose, or one who builds out of fear and intolerance? When you find yourself in a wall that is noble, do you long for something else, to be something other than a brick? If you find yourself in a wall that has an ignoble purpose, how do you respond? 

It's at this point that the analogy has been stretched to its natural endpoint, and falls apart. But up till here, it's an interesting thought to ponder, is it not?