“I like to solve problems. I know it is a skill set, but it is also an obligation. I grew up with parents who believe that you don’t simply complain: you try to find solutions and fix what’s in front of you.”

-Stacey Abrams

There is a story of an old man who always carried a little can of oil with him. If he encountered a door that was squeaking, he would squirt a little oil. He fixed what he could fix, starting with what was right in front of him, that positively impacted others. A generous spirit without an expectation of gratitude – no strings attached.

Our world is always full of squeaks – overdue repairs in our communities and in our own lives. Is solving these problems our responsibility? Do we have an obligation to be generous?

The opportunities to help are right in front of us – broken relationships, an elderly neighbor whose yard needs care, or a family member seeking your attention and losing to your smartphone.

Who needs a little kindness to help them smooth out a rough patch they are experiencing? The greatest gift you can offer does not need to be ordered – it is your undivided time and attention.

Do you carry a little can of oil with you?

My oil can is shared, yet there is so much more I can do. I think of the elderly man at church I seek out after worship service standing in the corner, to hear his thoughts on the news and stock market. I offer advice to friends and relatives in a career crisis. I spend time sharing my own experience of what I’ve gained by expressing gratitude – including writing these newsletters. Small steps of generosity in my control, and all around me. Often a minor fix can result in a large repair.

Three keys to sharing the gift of undivided attention and time in 2021:

Stop – Manage Your Device
A study conducted by the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University confirms that smartphones can adversely impact your relationships, by shortening your attention span. We certainly need technology to meet our needs – the key is to manage your attention. When you are with others, put real people first. They need and expect your attention – your virtual world can wait.

Look – Eye Contact
Eye contact is critical to making a person feel recognized, understood, and validated. An effective in-person conversation relies on connecting visually. Our impulse to divide our eye contact between several activities, multi-tasking, is strong and signals your priorities. Our brain is poor at multi-tasking effectively – put people first.

Listen – Affirm and Confirm
As you stop and look, the final step is actively listening. Affirm the comments of others, and confirm you understand what they are saying. Engage in the conversation by providing evidence you are listening.

Stop, look, and listen. Advice we received as children to make sure we were safe. It is also vital to expressing generosity in an authentic, intentional way. As we close this year and realize most of us have enough in life, it is time to help others. The little can of oil is in you – share what you have and make sure to refill.

And each year, I want to spend time to thank you for your time and attention to the Generous Leader. I always appreciate your feedback, and look forward to sharing my thoughts and teachings again next year.

All the best in 2021!
Todd

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