With my good friend, Jeff Senger, and a few other co-op representatives, I had an amazing opportunity to attend a meeting in Edmonton with about 30 members of the Federal Liberal Caucus. They wanted to know what’s shakin’ in the co-op sector in Alberta. And they wanted to know about our concerns regarding the regulatory environment; things which they may be able to address at the Federal level.
Justin Trudeau eloquently opened the meeting with some powerful comments for us all to consider in how we live our lives as Canadians. He said,
“People are tempted to turn inwards and just focus on their own survival and their own success, but we know full well that that is not the path to building the kind of strength in our economy and communities that we actually need. By leaning on each other, by sharing, by working together, we create the kind of opportunities for ourselves, for our friends, for our community, for our neighbors or our country that we truly need. In this country, it is too big, too empty, too cold for too many months of the year, we understand that we have to lean on each other, you have to be there for your neighbors, that’s what has allowed us to develop this extraordinary country; strong, not in spite of our differences but because of those differences right across the country. Just listening and paying attention to your neighbor and being there for your neighbor isn’t enough. The second thing which is being willing to pull up your sleeves and work really hard. I think both of those ideas are very much at the heart of the co-op movement and that’s why I’m so glad to see so many representatives here today to share with us the issues and concerns, and I hear from how we believe in the coming years the co-op movement is going to be an essential part of building a strong economy.”
Whether you are involved in a co-op or not, I believe Justin’s words ring true in regard to how we engage in our lives and communities. In order to be accountable for the success of our families and communities, we need to be willing to look outside of ourselves, and do what we can to contribute to someone else’s success.
From experience, I know there is something almost magical that happens. When my attitude shifts from “what’s in it for me” to “how can I help you” it seems to open up a space of reciprocity where giving and receiving occur in ways far bigger and better than I thought could be possible.
You may be thinking, “But how?”
I believe it is best when it starts at home – a great practice arena. As Justin said it is about paying attention and listening and then rolling up your sleeves to help. I invite you to make this a conscious habit with your spouse and kids. Here are some simple steps:
- Pay attention and really notice what they are doing. Especially look for the great behaviour and show them appreciation for the many wonderful things they do. The more you look for the good, the more you will see.
- Ask them good questions. The quality of the answer is always dependent on the quality of the question. Consider eliminating the word “why”. For example, “Why did you do that?” “Why” questions tend to build up walls of defense. Instead, use open-ended “how”, “what”, “where”, “I’m curious” questions that invite a healthy and friendly dialogue.
- Put on your BIG ears and listen to them – to understand. What I mean is to listen not only to the words, but to the thoughts and feelings that are a huge part of communication. This takes conscious effort to notice the body posture, tone of voice, facial expressions, and to sense the feelings involved.
- Ask what you can do to help or support them. Some people have trouble asking for help so they may not know (or be willing to share) how you can help. By really paying attention, you may be able to see things you can do.
- Be willing to give help and do what you can to make that person’s day go a bit better. These don’t have to be big things: help with cleaning, preparing meals, shopping, or to give them a hug or a pat on the back.
- Do these steps unconditionally – without score-keeping. This process is not about manipulation or to get something back. This is about giving and helping just because you can.
After practicing this within your own home, I invite you to use the same technique with neighbours, friends, and within your community. There are always organizations and activities where an extra set of hands can be put to use.
I don’t know what you’ll experience when you do this, but I’m really curious to know.
My experiences over the years with my own family, and being involved in community organizations, has provided me with great opportunities to learn and grow as a human being. And these experiences have provided me with an expansive feeling of belonging, value, and love.
I think our world needs more of those, don’t you?