Leave More Than You Take

November 4, 2013 By Tom

*Inspired from the “Marriage Isn’t For You” blog that was making the rounds yesterday (http://sethadamsmith.com/2013/11/02/marriage-isnt-for-you/) and of course, my soapbox*

First and foremost, this is an incredible piece (and this is coming from a guy with a tattoo for a wedding ring going through a divorce), best friends *should* fall in love, even if you become best friends during the _early_ course of the relationship.  After all, if you’re going to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want them to be someone you have fun with no matter what…and that requires a best friend to be a partner in crime.

So what inspired my thoughts for today from this article?

It was in that very moment that I knew that Kim was the right person to marry. I realized that I wanted to make her happy; to see her smile every day, to make her laugh every day. I wanted to be a part of her family, and my family wanted her to be a part of ours. And thinking back on all the times I had seen her play with my nieces, I knew that she was the one with whom I wanted to build our own family.

My father’s advice was both shocking and revelatory. It went against the grain of today’s “Walmart philosophy”, which is if it doesn’t make you happy, you can take it back and get a new one.

No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”

Without a doubt.  Yes.  Absolutely.

But this can’t be limited to just your spouse or how you interact with them.

Absolutely not.

“What can I give?” needs to be the motto of not just love, but of life.  Not just relationships, but of attitudes.  Not just a significant other, but the stranger on the street.  Not just with somebody you want to raise children with, but how you interact with other children.  It’s about not asking “what’s in it for me?” and instead saying without hesitation, “what can I give?”

It’s about learning to leave more than you take.

It’s about remembering that relationships aren’t about negotiations.  It’s not about who has what cards in hand.  It’s about being a member of the community, working to build that community, and finding a way to make it a better community regardless if that community is 2 people, 100 people, or a million people.

I co-founded an NPO in an effort to give back.  I’ve worked in the community in an effort to give part of myself to the bigger cause.  I stepped out on an unknown limb with the desire to make Indianapolis a better place.  Sometimes those lines blur of what am I getting/what am I giving as I feel so rewarded with my work.  I strive to help transform this city, not because I benefit from it, but because of the love I have for Indianapolis.  Look around, challenge yourself on what you’re doing to make a difference in the community.  I think back to my beloved grandparents who were involved in making Toledo a better place their whole lives and the impact and legacy they created.  I think of the sacrifices of friends who have served in the military for the greater good of the country.  I look around and see all of the other twenty-somethings who aren’t content to just sit in an office and selfishly absorb the awesomeness of this city without finding a way to give something back to it.

I found myself in a debate with somebody I’m close with last week on an issue she is incredibly passionate about.  It was a debate on having women and minorities represented in fair distribution when it comes to media articles and speaking panels in her industry.  It wasn’t a debate in the sense I opposed her viewpoint (I didn’t, she was spot on and I completely agree with her), it was a debate in the sense that after she got off her soapbox (#calledout), I simply challenged her  to do something about it.

At first she rationalized why she couldn’t, and then I worried she was going to throw a pretzel at me, and then she worked through her thoughts on what she could do to make an impact on the topic she was passionate about.

And in her usual fashion, she chewed it over for a day and did something about it.  She didn’t do it to better her own position or career; she did it because she is genuinely passionate about it and wanted to find a way to make a difference to benefit others in the future.  She made an effort to put something in motion to make change and even as she did it, she said “I won’t hear back from anyone on this.”

…and she was wrong (it’s a rarity, so I’m still amused to see it happen).

She got feedback, she got a discussion going and she made a point to others.  Is it an industry changing stance in the immediate sense?…No.  Is it a potential catalyst to make some changes here in Indy?…Yes.

Sometimes the grand plan starts with a tweet.  Sometimes the way we make an impact is by utilizing our contacts across industries.

But the point is, you can’t be engaged in making something better for selfish reasons; you must do it with the only goal of leaving more than you take for others.

…so how are you going to make a difference today?  Tomorrow?  Next week?

Just don’t wait till next year.