by PFCC Advisor Gary Evans
In Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, there is a thought-provoking scene in which Willie Loman is in neighbor Charley’s yard talking. As they talk, Charley’s son Bernard comes out. Charley says to Willie, “How do you like that kid? Gonna argue a case in front of Supreme Court.”
Willie, who is always full of boasting and bravado and talk without action is truly puzzled that neither Charley nor Bernard have said anything about the matter up to now. Says Willie, “The Supreme Court, and he didn’t even mention it.”
To this, Charley responds, “He don’t have to, he’s gonna do it.”
That small encounter has stuck with me ever since I first heard it uttered on stage. I truly admire the people who don’t have to say anything because, on a day to day basis, they are at work “doing it” without a lot of fanfare or acknowledgement. These are the people who walk the talk and make a difference by living within the spirit of what they are doing and take personal pride in the way they go about living and behaving.
So often, we are lucky to have people come into our lives to make our lives easier and better. Their dedication and effort on our behalf makes such a difference in how we feel and approach life.
On a number of occasions, I have thanked people who have gone out of their way to help me when I was vulnerable, afraid and sick. Many reply to my thanks by saying, “I’m just doing my job.” I often take issue when I get that response. There is a major difference in just doing one’s job and giving one’s time and concern and caring in a personal and sincere manner. If one does only what is written in his or her job description, I agree that one can say, “I am only doing my job.” The reality, though, is that there have been many caregivers in my life who helped me and took care of me without thought of anything but caring for and helping another human being through a difficult time. These are the people have gone well beyond just doing their job. They have become an important part of our lives in that place at that time.
When appreciation is expressed for this kindness and another says, “I am just doing my job,” it feels a little bit like there was nothing special about our relationship and I am just another job to be completed. How nice when the one being complimented says, “Thank you, I wanted to make you feel comfortable in my care and I appreciate you noticing that.” I like to think that when I thank someone, they hear me without minimizing my sincere appreciation. I like to think that they will feel more energy and peace in knowing that they are making a unique and personal difference by the manner in which they go about serving others.
These people are the ones I call “second milers.” The concept of going the second mile started during Roman times. Roman soldiers by law could ask Palestinians to carry their weapons for a mile. Many Palestinians marked exactly where a mile ended so they could legally stop there. They were only doing what was demanded by law or contract. They were only doing their job.
On the other hand, there were those Palestinians who decided to make their own decisions about service and would walk a second mile to ease another’s journey. One of the ways to bring energy into our lives is to go out of our way to help others and to hear and be grateful for the times people express appreciation. It is important to hear and acknowledge it when others express appreciation.
We help each other when we face difficulties as a team and we energize each other by noticing the special ways in which we assist each other. Expressing appreciation and accepting appreciation both add to the energy needed when we go from “just doing my job” to “walking the second mile.” For both the care receiver and the caregiver, it is an important way for each to recognize the unique relationship they have created.
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