A recent re-run of ABC’s Desperate Housewives departed from their steady diet of illicit affairs, criminal activities and neighborly intrigues to focus the episode on how Wisteria Lane’s ruggedly handsome handyman, Eli Scruggs (played by actor Beau Bridges), has helped out the hapless housewives over the years.
The episode begins as Eli announces his retirement, but — in a twist of irony that is so that street —he instead has a heart attack while fixing Susan Mayer’s roof. The story line ends with his funeral. In between, we take a trip down memory lane as Susan, Edie, Bree, Gaby, Lynette, and the rarely-seen-on-screen Mary Alice reminisce about when they first met Eli and the difference he has made — not by what he fixed in their houses, but by what he repaired in their lives.
As sappy as this episode may seem, I’d be a snooty liar to deny that I had a tear in my eye once or twice during the show. Watching, I was reminded of all the people I’ve only known peripherally, but who have touched my life deeply, with simple acts of good-old-fashioned, everyday service.
The nurse who held my hand during a scary procedure; the contractor who showed up in the middle of the night to board up a huge picture window in hurricane winds; the neighbor who brought the paper to the front door, so strangers wouldn’t know we were away on a trip. All of these people, and many more, embodied the spirit of service.
I’ve actually spent a good portion of the past 20 years deciphering just what service is. As a management consultant, I’ve trained tens of thousands of employees on how to be customer focused; I’ve developed big-scale strategic plans for service improvement within Fortune 500 companies, and I’ve even written a few books on the topic.
But lately, in light of President Obama’s call for us — the citizens of the United States of America — to pick up the mantel of volunteerism and community contribution, I’ve been thinking about service in a new light. Yes we can – gift our time and money to worthy causes, involve ourselves in important matters of public policy, and join our neighbors in helping to make our society a better place. All of these are worthwhile, important and inspiring pledges of national support. But it seems to me that we can also be of service in small ways every day. Visit the blog next week to find out how.
Please note that the information in this article is copyrighted by Karen Leland. If you would like to reprint any of it on your blog or website you are welcome to do so, provided you give credit and a live link back to this posting.
Karen Leland is the bestselling author of six books including Time Management In An Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. She is the co-founder of Sterling Consulting Group, which helps organizations and individuals learn how to fight distraction and find their focus in a wired world. For more information please contact: [email protected]