Jason F. Wright: How to help others – Start by practicing the lost art of opening doors

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Look closely at the candid photo below. I mean really look.

Too often we think helping others means donating time, money or emotional energy we just don’t have. So we live life looking down at the concrete, avoiding eye contact and counting sidewalk cracks.

In the meantime, we’re missing mini-moments to put a smile on someone’s face by simply seeing them.

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I took this photo while my darling daughter Jadi was home from college for the holidays. (She doesn't know I was watching from the car or that I'm writing this. Surprise!)

Author Jason F. Wright's daughter Jadi holds the door open for patrons at a Post Office in Virginia.

Author Jason F. Wright's daughter Jadi holds the door open for patrons at a Post Office in Virginia. (Courtesy of the author)

Oh, how I adore this moment and the lesson behind it.

It's a small thing, I know. Just a digital photo of a young smiling woman holding the door at a quaint and cozy Virginia post office.

But it's not about the glass door or the people passing through.

It's about the seeing. It's about the habit of looking over your shoulder.

Try it today. Open a literal and figurative door for someone — in every imaginable way. And please don't ask their religion, education, party affiliation or whether or not they support the president.

It's about never being too busy, too hurried, too wrapped up in your own atmosphere to really see those around you.

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I often speak about the lost art of opening doors when I visit schools around the country. I begin the discussion with a fun role-play and silly anecdote about opening the door for a woman at a convenience store.

We talk about the pull of the door.

The look back over the shoulder.

The scan.

The wait.

The hold.

The smile.

By the time we wrap, even pint-of-chocolate-milk-sized elementary school kiddos understand that we’re not really talking about doors anymore.

Think of it as developing your own kindness muscle memory.

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It’s learning to really see others. Developing good habits. It's never stepping through a door to something good without inviting someone near you to come along for the journey.

The message is especially powerful to those who often feel invisible. So many swim through each day feeling alone, just wishing someone would call them by name, say hello, extend a hand, share some joy, show kindness.

The message is especially powerful to those who often feel invisible. So many swim through each day feeling alone, just wishing someone would call them by name, say hello, extend a hand, share some joy, show kindness.

They're so used to the world slamming doors in their faces instead of looking back and scanning, waiting, holding, smiling.

Try it today. Open a literal and figurative door for someone — in every imaginable way. And please don't ask their religion, education, party affiliation or whether or not they support the president.

Don't ask a thing. Don't judge. Simply open a door.

It just might change the way you see everyone and everything.

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Yes, to you it’s just a digital photo of a young smiling woman holding the door at a quaint and cozy Virginia post office.

But to me, it’s a tangible canvas of kindness and a simple lesson to live better.

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