My stepsister was in town the other day helping her stepdaughter move into her new place in Austin. I had only met her a handful of times and thought she was perfectly nice but did not have too much in common. She is 15 years younger than I am and into very different things. In the past, I would have probably offered to meet up for a quick drink or something that would not be too much of an investment of my time. This time, however, I felt compelled to invite her over to dinner at our house. She was very gracious and came over that evening for dinner. I asked her about herself and what she was into, why she chose Austin and what her experience was like so far. I looked her in the eyes and genuinely wanted to know about her. Turns out, she is one of the most lovely people I have ever met. She told me that she has her undergraduate degree in engineering and then went back to school to get her master’s degree in architecture because she loves building things. She engaged with my children in a way that most other friends do not. At the end of the night, she asked me if she could take my kids to an Engineering and Stem day at the University of Texas where kids are invited to go learn about engineering, math, and science. Since that day, she has become one of the greatest mentors and friends to my children. She is smart, funny, kind, and a great role model for my kids.
I tell you this story because if I had not invited her over and taken the time to know her as a person, neither my kids nor I would have gotten the chance to have such an amazing woman involved in our lives. Many of us go through our lives looking down rather than looking up and engaging with all the amazing moments that are right in front of us. There are so many opportunities every day to learn from the people around us, even in those small moments. I drove through the McDonalds drive-through line the other day to get my kids a McFlurry (I know they are not good for them but they are delicious!) and I asked the African-American guy that handed us your food how his day was going. He looked back at me and said: “Ma’am, I am blessed”. I was struck by his response and immediately fired back by saying, “that is a great attitude, why do you feel so blessed?”. He said that he is healthy and has a job to provide for his children. This man was not dwelling on the fact that he had to work at McDonald’s making minimum wage, but instead was grateful for the opportunity to have a job and support his family.
As each of us approaches our day, not only should we approach it with an attitude of gratitude, like the man working the drive-thru line at McDonald’s, but we should look at every moment as an opportunity to engage with the people right in front of us. These moments can change their day, but can also add up to impactful moments and growth in our own lives. As you go to work today, stop and ask the receptionist or the cleaning staff at your company how their day is. Look at the person next to you at a meeting that looks tired and worn out and ask what is going on in their personal life. The sum of all these small moments will add up to much greater things than waiting for those big moments to change our life. Live your life with your eyes (and your heart) wide open.