We have all heard the saying If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? The premise being if there is no receiver, does the action still matter? The quick answer is “yes”. According to the laws of physics, the sound still happens. Dynamite does not silently explode because the workers have retreated to a safe distance. That should seem quite obvious.
This had me thinking of the flip-side of this equation. What about the creative side of things? What if you were to plant a tree and nobody was around to see you do it? Would it still matter? The quick answer again would be “yes”. The tree would still grow. People would enjoy its shade and any fruits if it was that sort of tree. The birds would still be able to use its branches to rest or perhaps even build their nests. The tree would still filter the air to make the world better for everyone.
What does all of this have to do with living a more amazing life? Plenty. I am not just speaking to the arborists that read this blog. This question came up during an absolutely wonderful heart-felt conversation between the love of my life, Margie, and me. The question was – If you do an act of kindness and nobody knows about it or benefits from it in the moment, is it still worth doing? The quick answer, much like our tree analogies, is “yes”. This can be as simple as picking up a piece of litter as you are walking. In the long run it may not change the world, and may seem insignificant, but it is not. Many of you may be thinking “Why should I go out of my way to pick up someone else’s garbage?” Really, you shouldn’t have to. It is their responsibility and their fault it is on the ground.
So why do these things? The reasons are plenty, and I would really enjoy hearing some of the ones you think I may have missed in the comments below. On a personal level, doing kind and right things when nobody is watching is what developing a strong character is all about. If you do what is right when there is no one watching, you will do the right thing when people are watching. This holds true for many aspects of life. Healthy eating comes to mind. If you tell everyone you are eating healthy, but then go home and eat half a dozen doughnuts your waist will resemble…well…a doughnut. The same is true for gossip. If you talk well of others in public, but still gossip with your coworkers about this person or that, your spirit will not be at peace.
Another reason is simple, yet very important – you never know if somebody is watching. At my day job at the post office we have a poster reminding the carriers to handle each package with the care and respect it deserves. There is a not so subtle reminder that everyone has cell phones and even if you don’t think anyone is watching, before long the whole world may be watching. I have heard people say things such as “Well just because somebody does something once, it may not be who they really are.” or the very insightful phrase, “They wouldn’t have done that if they thought someone was watching/listening.” The point is this – we are what we do whether someone is watching or listening or not. We are what we repeatedly say and do. Of course we all make mistakes and that should be understood, but it is important to cultivate our character by acting consistently whether someone is watching or not.
Also, doing something good when we know, or at least think, that no one is watching gives us a good feeling inside. If you are new to this blog it we often stress the importance of keeping our state positive. Being in a positive state helps us reduce stress, increase joy and just feel better about ourselves. When that happens the ripple effect is our treatment of others and the attitude we bring to our jobs, family, friends and the world at large.
Lastly, like in the tree example, this has an unknown ripple effect. Later, by picking up that littler, we may bring a person joy when they see a clean street instead of one filled with garbage. We may have helped prevent an animal or child from picking that garbage up and putting it in their mouth. We may have had a great impact and never know it. Is doing something good or right worth doing if nobody ever knows or we can’t see the positive impact? The answer, as you may have deciphered, is a resounding “YES”.