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Scheme of Things

Contribute Joy
By Nan S. Russell
Jul 31, 2013 - 1:59:26 PM

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Some people collect coins or books, kaleidoscopes or post cards. From flea market enthusiasts to junk-yard pickers, you name it and someone seems to collect it. While I can add my name to tangible collections through the years, what I really collect is quotations.

For as long as I can remember, I've been drawn to sayings and quotations of insightful and thoughtful words that offer a bit of inspiration, reframe my thinking, or provide encouragement. I'm amazed how a sentence or two can do that for me.

Like a treasure unearthed, when I find a quotation that speaks to me, I have to have it. For the past 32 years, I've logged favorites in a database (thanks to my techie husband), acquiring quite literally thousands of quotations for daily reflections or nuggets for writing and sharing.

A new addition to my collection came after the 2013 death of Pulitzer Prize winner and acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert, whose cancer battle left him unable to speak for the last few years. While reading about his life, I found these words by Ebert written after more than a decade with debilitating and disfiguring health issues:

"We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."

That simple thought - a request of sorts to "try to contribute joy" - humbled me. It's not hard to contribute a bit of joy every day - acknowledging others' contributions, holding the door, smiling at a stranger, being there for our kids or significant others, helping out a neighbor, or telling someone how much we care.

But, I often find it's harder to remember than to do. We get caught in our swirl of life - our busyness and dramas and troubles. We get absorbed in our own stuff. Ebert's words reframed that for me. How many days do we have to contribute joy, to see beyond our little worlds, to make a difference in someone's life?

It's clear the world needs our contributions of simple joy. Road rage and gotcha-videos are up, common courtesy and etiquette are down. If nothing else, contributing joy offers a counter balance to those ills.

Yet, in the scheme of things, the reality is we can't give even a little joy without increasing our own. How grateful I am to have found Roger Ebert's words to nudge my thinking. How fortunate we all are for others' words that touch our souls, nudge us awake, and inspire us to be better people, try a bit harder, or contribute a little more joy.

(c) 2013 Nan S. Russell. All Rights Reserved.

Nan S. Russell is the award-winning author of "Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way." Her third book, "The Titleless Leader," was published May 2012. Her new book: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture that Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation releases Fall 2013. More about Nan and her work can be found at  Sign up to receive Nan's free monthly eColumn at:

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