Leave Everything Better Than You Found It
Recently I was asked to name a favorite quote that encapsulated my personal motto. I knew immediately what mine was. No hesitation. “Leave everything better than you found it” is a quote that’s infiltrated my life for many years. Many are familiar with this statement from the book that swept the nation in the 1990s called God’s Little Instruction Book. But my first introduction to the concept came from my mother. If she said it once, she restated it a million times. As a child, you think it only results in work. As a teenager, you roll your eyes. But as an adult, you consider it wisdom.
Several years ago I chose to make it a prevalent motto for how I lived my life. Leave everything better than you found it. Such a simple statement for such an all-encompassing principle. What exactly does it mean? What is everything?
Imagine all you encounter every day. It might be people, things, or places. Each contact is the “everything”: friends, grocery stores, family, co-workers, restaurants, strangers, parks, and the list continues endlessly.
Society often reverberates with the message: it’s not your problem or responsibility. We need to flip the worldly perspective to say, “I will be part of the solution. How can I help?” What if we began each day with the attitude of everything I come in contact with today, I’m going to make better.
- The checkout clerk at the store—smile and ask how she is doing.
- The fast food restaurant where someone left a mess—throw away the trash with your own.
- Store parking lot—push a cart to the return rack so it doesn’t scratch any cars.
- Neighborhood—pull your neighbor’s trash bin to the curb.
- Your children—send them off to school with encouraging words.
We’ve heard the phrase “random acts of kindness” or “pay it forward.” “Leave everything better than you found it” embraces the same connotation and stands as the epitome of encouragement. Make an impact without desiring a reward in return. Do something for others without receiving recognition.
God has operated on this principle since the beginning of time. Each encounter with Him leaves us better than He found us. Shouldn’t we emulate our Creator?