My friend and colleague, Marlen Wells, is a former Toronto police officer. After twelve years on the force he turned in his badge to pursue a calling in youth ministry. He and his wife, Bobbi, have five children, two of whom are still teens. Perhaps because of the “street sense” he culled from a career as a cop, Marlen knows how to creatively communicate with people, especially young adults.
I’ll share just one example. I wonder if you can relate.
As his two boys started to mature, Marlen began to notice evidence of a creeping selfishness emerging from their character. A student of human nature, this didn’t surprise him, but it was something he wanted to get on top of, and quickly. Dishes were being left unwashed, empty ketchup and mustard jars were being placed back in the fridge, toilet paper rolls hung empty, half-empty soda cans were being found in the basement, television remotes were being lost with increasing frequency, and when he came home from the office, the boys would be in the house even though the empty garbage can was still sitting out by the curb.
In response, he was tempted to resort to sarcasm, to ask if the butler had gone missing, but instead chose to deliver the following lecture, which I’ve condensed:
Gentlemen, I have grown tired of picking up and stepping around and over all of your piles. This house is not a hotel and your mother and I are not your indentured servants. Your selfishness, carelessness and laziness is making life miserable for everyone but the two of you. What ends up happening is the “next guy” that wants to use an item or occupy a space has to clean up the mess in order to have a semblance of enjoyment around here.
The problem is, however, I am always the “next guy.”
He then turned philosophical to make his point clear:
This world is becoming programmed to let “the next guy” do everything for “the previous guy” who cares less about “the other guy” that has to clean up “the past guy’s” mess in the space where “the next guy” wants to make a sandwich or have a little peaceful downtime after a long hard week at work.
Here’s a thought: imagine what life would be like if, instead of leaving our mess for “the next guy,” we actually lived in a way as to help make the next guy’s life even more pleasant than ours – the “current guy”?
In this house we’re going to re-emphasize a commonsense doctrine:
We leave things better than we found them. It’s time to man up and be “the guy” God has made you to be.
Imagine how different things would be if we and those around us practiced this principle. In Washington, we wouldn’t be talking about increasing the debt ceiling. Or, to share an everyday example, we wouldn’t be worried about our car being hit by an abandoned shopping cart.
Let me ask you:
What can you do today that will help make another person’s tomorrow more pleasant?