An Earful, A Thank You Or Ice Cream

There once was a mom. She worked hard all day at her job and then in the evening she worked even harder to maintain a household for her busy traveling-salesman husband and three young boys.

One especially busy Thursday evening, she came home to an especially hectic situation. The house was a mess. There was hardly enough food in the kitchen to constitute dinner. And there was a heaping mound of dirty clothes primed to be washed. Worst of all, her mother-in-law was due to arrive the next day for a weekend visit.

Not quite panicked, but certainly stressed, the mother reached out to each of her three boys hoping for some support and assistance.

The first boy yawned with disinterest. “Not my concern,” he thought. He pretended not to hear about the dilemma and then eventually tuned out the entire situation. He kicked his feet back up on the couch and resumed focus on television, texting and video games.

The second boy reluctantly accepted a list of things to accomplish and with a heavy sigh asked, “All of this?” After his mother confirmed his question, he rolled his eyes and in an obligatory fashion began completing items one by one. When the list was complete he joined his brother, sitting on a chair next to the couch.

The third boy jumped to his feet and enthusiastically asked, “How can I help?” He dutifully took a list of items and got busy. With each task he completed, he returned to his mother and asked, “What else can I do?” He worked shoulder to shoulder with his mother through vacuuming, shopping and laundry, taking pride in and enjoying the effort.

When all the work was done, one by one the mother individually addressed her three sons.

The first boy she gave an earful. She chided his obstinate behavior and demanded that he be more cooperative and helpful. As a consequence, she sent him to bed.

The second boy she gave a simple thank you. While he may not have been happy about it, he had no doubt been compliant. She sent him away to carry on with what he was doing.

The third boy she gave a big hug. She could not be more proud of his enthusiasm. She gave him a big hug, sat him down and served him up a heaping bowl of ice cream with his favorite toppings.

The fact of the matter is that we all serve someone in life. We might serve a boss. We might serve customers or clients. We might serve neighbors, friends or loved ones. Yes, we all serve someone. This is not the issue. The issue is how do we want to be known for serving them?

Do you want to be known as the person who is obstinate? Do you want to be known as the person who comes through, but needs to be pushed and prodded first? Or do you want to be known as an enthusiastic contributor to the cause, whatever that cause might be.

In choosing an answer, reflect on the tale of the three boys and remember that life’s best rewards go to those who are known for being willing and eager to serve others. So whenever you have an opportunity to serve another, ask yourself, “Do I want an earful, just a thank you or a heaping bowl of ice cream?”

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