excellent during a crisis

After entering the professional world years ago (and earning my first “real” paycheck, if you know what I mean), I remember one of those early performance reviews. It was the first time someone on the other side of the desk looked me square in the eye and said, “You are excellent during a crisis.”

Now let me not flaunt some fictitious notion that my performance is always excellent. Let me also not suggest that I am continuously calm, cool, and collected 24/7, 365 days a year. I am not.

But as the COVID-19 crisis has caused an unprecedented profound, prolonged response, I have reflected back multiple times in regard to what it means to be “excellent during a crisis”… and how in these watershed societal moments, we have the somewhat veiled opportunity to bring out the best in one another.

To bring out the best in another means we aid and encourage another’s best qualities be made manifest.

No doubt in order to do such, we must omit any selfish ambition or vain conceit. We need to be humble — and thus see no one nor no other path or plight as better or worse than our own. We look down on no one. Period. We are in this together.

Perhaps it’s why on my recent, limited grocery jaunts, I’ve stopped to thank each re-stocker, often working feverishly in individual aisles. All I do is stop my six feet away and say, “Thank you for working.”

I must say, I’ve been amazed at those who’ve done the immediate double-take, clearly surprised, suggesting, “WHAT did you say??”

When I repeat my gratitude for them because they are working extra hard so that there’s food in my fridge — recognizing that they, too, need food in their fridge — the double-take morphs into an obvious, deliberate smile. They thank me. They are unquestionably, sincerely appreciative.

(I wonder why then, we do not share such gratitude on a daily basis… even in absence of this moment in time…)

So how can we bring out the best in another?

Right now.

Perhaps we start by thinking less of ourselves.

Let’s be clear that I suggest not we look down on self in any way. As iconic author C.S. Lewis was infamously known for saying, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

I’m guessing I’m not going out on too much of a limb here to suppose that each of us could grow in learning to think of ourselves less.

So we keep our eyes open. We recognize our own propensity for conceit, and stretch ourselves to see more than ourselves…

Who around you needs help?

Who nearby won’t reach out, but you know a simple act or gift (from six feet away) would be incredibly encouraging?

Who is lonely that would love a phone call?

Who is fearful that could use some support?

Who has lost their job that would appreciate a listening ear or word of hope?

And who, I ask, would be moved by our thanks?

Be persistent, friends. Be curious enough to pursue the people around you. The longer this continues and each of us learns to persevere — having good days and bad — let it be said that we were “excellent during a crisis.”