Six Sigma and more:
Pay it forward
After participating in my wife Carole's recent high school reunion, we decided to explore a little family history on the way home by visiting her father's home town, Lee, Illinois. After a couple of hours looking for Lee in the cornfields of northern Illinois, we found ourselves hopelessly lost and nearly out of gas. We stopped at a farm house to ask for help. A friendly woman appeared in a few minutes and told us that she thought she knew where Lee was but there were no gas stations in that direction. She invited her husband out to confirm her thought that gas was in the opposite direction, in the town of Ashton. She said she had to go to Ashton anyway. She suggested that we follow her to Ashton for gas and then back toward Lee. As we got gas, I noticed that she just sat in her car and ran no errands. I went over to ask her about her errands. She had none. She just wanted to make sure we got our gas all right and got on to Lee.
As I examine an Illinois map, now, in retrospect, it seems like a small distance. But when we were on dirt roads, out of gas, and unable to see beyond the cornfields that seemed unending, it seemed like a very long distance. Anyway, this giving woman decided to go completely out of her way to help two strangers. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
Her kindness reminded me of some thoughts others
have had about going out of our way to help each other. In undergraduate
school, I was exposed to the psychologist, Carl Rogers, and his
"norm of reciprocity." As I remember, he believed that when one
of us does something special for another, the recipient naturally
feels an obligation to return the favor in some way. I know that
is an emotion I felt as a result of this woman's favor and it is
an emotion that I have felt in other, similar situations.
Her kindness also reminded me of a book and movie
titled Pay it Forward. Reuben St. Clair, the teacher and protagonist
in Pay It Forward, starts a movement with this voluntary, extra-credit
assignment: "Think of an idea for world change, and put it into
action." Trevor, the 12-year-old hero of the film, thinks of quite
an idea. He describes it to his mother and teacher this way: "You
see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they
ask how they can pay it back, I say they have to pay it forward--to
three more people. Each. So nine people get helped. Then those people
have to do twenty-seven." (www.payitforwardfoundation.org).
Trevor begins the process and, as you might imagine, wonderful things
Finally, the farm woman's kindness reminded me of
the book and the movement by the same name, Random Acts of Kindness.
In the book, Dawna Markova recalls her grandmother's admonition
regarding random acts of kindness. "Your heart can never run out.
The more you give from there the fuller it will be." (Random
Acts of Kindness by the editors of Conari Press, Berkeley,
CA; Conari Press, 1993)
So whether you expect people in your Six Sigma organization will respond to your "random acts of kindness" with reciprocal acts toward you, that they will respond with an exponential number of acts directed randomly, or that your "heart will be fuller," I expect that good things will result from your random acts of kindness. William Penn said,
If there is any kindness
I can show, or any good thing I can do to any
Fellow being, let me do it now, and not deter or neglect it,
As I shall not pass this way again.
May we all engage more actively in kindness. Our Six Sigma effort and the world will be better for it.
As always, I welcome and appreciate your responses. I'm at email@example.com
2006 PQ Systems.
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