Modeling servanthood in life and at work

I lost a friend this month who taught me about life and how to live with others. My friend was not someone that we would label a role-model. He lived a life that was far from perfect life. He made mistakes on his journey that cost him relationships, health, and financial stability. But we all make mistakes and lead imperfect lives. Living with our imperfections and finding acceptance from others makes us more human and authentic. All the pains included. As I see it, this is exactly what made my friend that much more remarkable. 

My friend also did many things right throughout his lifetime. He wasn’t a friend that was gifted in his ability to record or teach things. Rather, he was one who taught through action. He lived to help others, to be respectful, and to listen more than talk. During his last years, he became more selfless and servant-like.  So, I’m recording this list of what I saw in him as a tribute. It’s a reflection of things that build character and motivation to let my actions speak louder than any words I can write or say.

Act with service to express honor

I can’t remember a time when my friend wasn’t helping someone else when they had run upon some type of hardship. He visited people in the hospital, he helped with fundraisers for non-profits, and he performed personal errands and chores for those who could not.  What’s most memorable to me about him in this aspect of his life is that he neither bragged nor complained about helping others. He just did it. He didn’t use social media. He didn’t call attention to his deeds or seek accolades. He just served others with the intention of helping them have a better life.

Be on-time to show respect

It didn’t matter what the occasion or event. If my friend was scheduled to be there, he was almost always early. He planned for the unexpected on his travels and didn’t keep you waiting or guessing. I often used to joke with others when setting a meeting that if I wanted him there at 11:30 I should really tell him to arrive at 12. Think about how many business meetings you’ve been to where someone or a group of people arriving late disrupted the meeting. There’s a saying, “Punctuality is the duty of subjects and the politeness of kings.” Whether employee or manager, one way I’ve found to show respect for others is to be on-time. My friends respected me this way and I want to do likewise to others.

Listen before speaking to keep life simple

My friend didn’t get overly excited about the ups-and-downs in his life. He kept a calm and steady demeanor. As I thought about this character trait, what I realized is that by doing this he kept life simple. He didn’t make a situation into something it wasn’t and then lose his ability to influence. He didn’t flip a friend’s life-trial to be about himself. He preferred instead to hold your hand or brace your fall if you were going through a rough time in life.

I remember a time when I received a speeding ticket. As I recounted the story to my friend, I thought he might react by advising me how to drive better or giving me a list of to-dos. Instead, he calmly asked if I had paid my fine and left it at that. He knew I had learned a lesson from the mistake. No more words were needed. On another occasion, we discussed details about how one of my jobs ended and my subsequent job search. He didn’t judge me or criticize the employer. Rather, he asked how I was feeling and how I planned to move forward. Our society has enough people who speak first with the intention of being “right”. We need more people who listen first to understand and then respond with empathy and understanding. If you are managing people in the workplace, this is an important characteristic of a servant-leader. 

So, my old friend has moved on from this life. His mark on the world is in the memories of those he helped; Me included. 

Onward and Upward.