(This week is the 49thinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about being our best self. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
JANE GOODALL(British primatologist)
I had forgotten about those Boston Pizza gift certificates until I noticed them hanging forlornly from a stickpin on the little bulletin board just above the desk in my basement office. I pulled them off and took a look. No expiration date. Good only at the Peace River Boston Pizza. I trudged upstairs.
“Honey, I’ve got these gift certificates for Boston Pizza. How’d you like to go out for dinner on Saturday night?”
As I am a stingy old man (a “frugal money manager,” in my terms), my wife doesn’t get an offer like that very often, so, of course, she agreed.
Given our different schedules for the evening, we each took our own car, and my wife arrived a little before me. As I entered the restaurant, half a dozen girls from our school were just leaving. They were wearing their Glenmary Saints team volleyball shirts. I recognized a few of them, one in particular.
“Hi, Lilly. Is the volleyball team out to dinner?” I asked.
“Not exactly,” she said.
“Are you having a good weekend?” I inquired.
“Yeah, no homework.”
I chuckled. “Ah yes. I didn’t give you any homework this weekend.”
The girls bounced and babbled their way out the door, as girls often do. I found my wife and sat down across the table from her.
“You should have seen those kids terrorizing the place,” she said curtly.
“Really? What were they doing?” I was surprised. Usually, our students behave quite well in public.
“They were running all over the restaurant. The waitresses had to dodge them.”
Since I had missed this excitement, I let the issue drop for the time being.
On Monday morning, I saw Lilly in class, so I thought I would bring it up and take advantage of the teachable moment.
“Lilly, how did your volleyball team do in the tournament on the weekend?” I started off.
“Pretty good. We got silver,” she replied happily.
“And the team went for pizza dinner?” I asked.
“Sort of. Some of us did, but not everyone.”
“After you girls left the restaurant, I heard some comments about your behavior. It seems you were rather disruptive. Do you think all of you behaved well in the restaurant?”
“We were okay,” she said defensively.
“Do you think you would have behaved differently if your parents were there?” I asked.
“Maybe.” Lilly wasn’t about to admit anything.
“Listen, everyone,” I said to address the whole class. “If you are all by yourself in public, your behavior only reflects on you—perhaps on your parents, your age group, your gender, your race, or other easily identifiable characteristics. But once you put on your school clothing, your team jersey, you become an ambassador for your school. If you behave badly, then everyone looks at your school clothing and thinks to themselves, ‘Those Glenmary students sure are brats. I wonder what they’re teaching the kids over there.’
“You see, it’s not just about you. Our whole school, and everyone who’s a part of it, gets painted with the same brush. If you wear your Glenmary jersey and behave badly, people will think I’m a bad teacher because I teach at Glenmary and I’m obviously not teaching you very well. Your behavior affects me, even when I’m not there.
“Every one of us has a much bigger effect on the people around us than we think—for good or for ill. As teenagers, you will often get yourselves in trouble by not thinking about how your actions might affect the people around you. So you’ll end up doing something you thought would be okay, but it hurts someone else, and often you don’t even know it.
“Kids are often focused on not doing anything wrong. But life’s not just about avoiding what’s wrong. It’s really about being your best self—all the time. If you are thinking about being the best version of yourself, you’ll never have to worry about doing something wrong. If you are thinking about having a positive impact on the people around you, you’ll never have to worry about having a negative impact on them.
“Live every moment in such a way that you make the world a little bit better because you were here—at Boston Pizza, for example. Ask yourself, ‘Am I living the best version of myself?’ Even more, does your behavior inspire others to also live in a way that makes the world a little bit better? That’s what you need to ask yourself about your behavior—not simply, ‘Did I do anything wrong?’ We want to have a positive effect on others. Because life’s not just about you—it’s also about how you affect the people around you.”
As we reflect on our recent performances and plan for some redirection in our lives, keep in mind that we affect everyone around us more than we think. Ask, “Do my words and actions reflect the best version of myself?” But also ask, “Do my words and actions bring out the best in others?” If so, we truly are making the world a bit better.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.