The cynic’s old saying that no good deed goes unpunished rings true because most of us have first-hand experience with it. Yet, there’s nothing more encouraging than those moments in life when we get confirmation that the cynic’s take on life is the exception, not the rule.
I have experienced that confirmation several times recently, and I want to share a couple of examples as a reminder that doing the right thing with no expectation for any recognizable reward seldom goes unnoticed and often comes back as a sweeter reward than you ever could have imagined.
As leaders, we’ve all been given something, a blessing if you will, and with that comes a responsibility to share with others. Theologian Tony Evans talks about how blessings are never designed to stop with you; they are designed to flow through you to others. He and other theologians have a saying for this reciprocity: We are supposed to be conduits, not cul-de-sacs.
That’s why when I get a reasonable request from someone to help them in some way, I do what I can to honor it. I feel a sense of obligation that’s rooted in gratitude for what I’ve been given. That doesn’t mean I say yes to everyone, but I try not to be a cul-de-sac. Like millions of other people on this planet, I want to help, I can help, so I do help.
Helping others is its own reward, but I think it’s part of human nature to feel good when someone else acknowledges that you’ve been a conduit. It’s encouraging, and we all need encouragement from time to time.
Recently, for instance, I spoke to a real estate group and the appearance produced a request from a young listener who wanted to ask me for additional advice specific to his career and life. I told him I didn’t do professional coaching, but that I’d be glad to visit with him for 30 minutes and agreed to a phone call. Other leaders have done something similar for me throughout the years, so why wouldn’t I give a little of my time to the next generation? Frankly, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal.
Not long after I agreed to the call, I got a message from one of my former bosses. It wasn’t just any former boss, however. It was a former boss who had mentored me earlier in my career and whom I respected as much as anyone I’ve ever worked for. He told me he was an advisor to the young man’s company, which obviously I didn’t know beforehand. He had heard that I had agreed to take the call, and he was letting me know he was proud and appreciative of me for doing it.
I have to tell you, it made my day to hear that from him.
About that same time I got an email from someone I didn’t know who wanted to have a follow up conversation from that same event. I responded with a simple question: “About what?” And he responded with an equally simple answer: “Faith.”
I agreed to the call. The gentleman was 72 years old and he had been married for more than 50 years. The last thing he needed was my advice. Indeed, he had a great deal to teach me. But that’s not why he wanted to talk to me. He just wanted to thank me because I had openly shared my faith during the interview, and he thought that merited his gratitude. Then he asked if he could pray for me, which, of course, I agreed to allow him to do. I could not have felt more honored.
My former boss and this 72-year-old man both had taken time out of their day to lift me up when they easily could have thought a nice thought about me and gone on about their lives. But these two men were conduits, not cul-de-sacs, and their blessings flowed straight into me. Hopefully, it now has flowed through me and into you. And, if so, I’d like to think it won’t stop there.