A Lesson at the Parking Meter

Photo courtesy of Josh Newton

Photo courtesy of Josh Newton

It happened two days ago. I was feeding the parking meter just after arriving for a lunch meeting. As I waited for the rusty machine to reflect my payment, and how long I could park for, I heard a voice behind me.

"Sir, I'm not sure you know, but they will give you a ticket for not parking backwards in these parking spaces."

I looked up to see who it was. A young lady walking past with three of her friends smiled at me. I replied, "I didn't know. Thank you. I'll re-park!"

And I did, once I saw that my payment was good for a two-hour parking.

As I walked to my meeting, I reflected on what had just happened. Until that moment, I had never met the lady who gave me the parking tip. But as she walked by, and saw me doing something that could result in a hefty fine, she decided to speak up. I started to wonder what percentage of the population would have done that. I wondered if I would have done that!

Yes, I try to lend a helping hand as much as I could. Yet, it's very likely that I would have just walked by and not say anything if I were in her shoes. But she didn't do that. And in the process, she saved me what could have been a huge parking ticket.

Now, what would have been the reason for me to not speak up if I see someone that's obviously about to get in trouble? Is it because I don't care enough? While that may be true for some, I don't think that's the case for many of us.

I realized that I probably would not have said anything simply because I may not have been paying attention to what was going on around me. I could be looking at the person and not really seeing them. Their actions would be right in my face, but my brains may not be computing what the consequences would be for them. As a result, I would not speak up.

This is usually what happens with many of us. We go about our daily activities, just letting life pass us by. In the process, we miss countless opportunities - chances to do something for someone; to add value to others. But imagine the opportunities we'd find if we actually go around looking for ways to do something to help another person. There will be plenty to find. When we do that, we come intentional.

I recently heard John Maxwell speak about one of his grandchildren who decided early one day, that he will look for opportunities to open doors for others. If I remember correctly, by noon, he had opened doors for more than forty people. Forty doors opened! Imagine that! Do you think it would have happened if he didn't purpose to do that as he woke up that morning? I don't think so!

When each day, you purpose in your heart to add value to others, and you go everywhere with that purpose in mind, myriad of opportunities will be available for you to do so. As you act on these, you feel good about yourself and you get more done. You become more productive. And it may even lead to doors being opened to a whole new world for you. There's a line in a poem by Edwin Markham that goes:

All that we send into the lives of others, Comes back into our own.

So I ask - do you wake up each day thinking of who you can help or do something for? And it need not be something special or earth-shattering. It could be as simple as holding doors open for others as your walk through them. It could be a courteous smile or a kind word to someone that needs encouragement.

Are you intentional about following through with actions on the opportunities that you encounter? Or do you just wander around letting life happen to you? The choice is yours, and you can start today. The fact remains that when we live with intentionality, we can make a difference in the lives of people that we come across each day. And that difference can go a long way in making someone's day a special one.

Just like that lady did for me at the parking meter.