Better than we found them

November 11, 2023

In my last post I mentioned leaving people better than we found them. I think the same principle applies to places we go and things we do as well.  

I remember watching a TV show once when I was a kid where the characters were going on a trip and needed to rent a car. The main protagonist was adamant that he wouldn’t need the “extra six-dollar insurance” because he was responsible and would take care of the car in his possession. His friends, however, were of a different mindset and were loudly proclaiming how they were going to mess the car up because it wasn’t theirs.  

Of course, the story went on to show, in a rather comedic fashion, how you should always get the “extra six-dollar insurance” because it gives one license to completely disregard the responsibility entrusted to them when they are caring for someone else’s possessions.  

You’ve probably dealt with similar things when a friend or child borrows something and returns it damaged or broken or somehow worse off than when they received it. This casual disregard for the property of others can lead to discord in an adult relationship but it can also lead to a teachable moment when it is your child.  

This brings me back to a lifting session I had at the gym a week or two ago – and really the whole point of this article. I’ve been a member of a local fitness club for a couple years now and often am in total dismay about the condition I find the weights at the squat racks in. They are haphazardly lying around, just dropped in place or stacked precariously without regard for the next person to use them. It is disorderly and causes my brain to spend far too long wondering why people would do such a thing.  

Regardless of the state in which I find the squat racks, I always police my station. If they are a mess, I reorganize them and leave them in a proper arrangement for the next person up. Is it necessary? No. Is it required? Again, no. But does it make things easier for the next person to not have to hunt through a stack of 45-pound plates to find that 10- or 25-pound plate they need? Yes. 

While I was lifting, I noticed a guy at the next rack over doing something I’ve never seen before: he was shuffling and reorganizing the weight plates next to his station. Creating order from chaos. I caught his eye, and we exchanged the obligatory bro nod. No words spoken, just mutual respect and appreciation. He continued with his lifting and I with mine. We both finished up around the same time and I walked over to him and thanked him thanks for cleaning up the station. He laughed and we chatted for a minute, getting to know one another. 

I’ve been lifting in this gym for over a year now and this was, quite literally, the very first conversation I’ve had with another human being there. The entire population of gym rats all here to the same thing: get jacked. Yet that same population of people and I never once exchanged more than a “hey”.  

The idea of working out and becoming physically fit is perhaps, at its core, a selfish and maybe vain pursuit. Yes, we are improving our health and maybe prolonging our lives but ultimately it only serves one immediate person: the person lifting. What a bunch of egoists we are. 

But that one other guy who I found cleaning up after other people? Yeah, he’s a friend now and we enjoy lifting together. I think when we decide to actively make the places and people around us better and don’t just focus on ourselves, we really do create a better world. 

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