Visualize, if you will, a fountain: Fresh, clear water, bubbling up into the air while making a beautiful sound! People gather at a fountain for many reasons. Historically, they would travel many miles to partake of a natural fountain. It was an essential life-source for them and their families. We cannot live without fresh water – It sustains us, cleanses us. Today, adults sit by a fountain for reflection, relaxation or rejuvenation. Children are drawn to a fountain instinctively – The can’t help putting their hands in. They giggle with delight!
Full Definition of fountain (From Merriam Webster): the source from which something proceeds or is supplied…. a spring of water issuing from the earth….a reservoir containing a liquid that can be drawn off as needed.
Now, think about a drain. It sucks things away, pulling constantly, until only emptiness remains. We drain dirty water after cleaning our dishes, our clothing and our bodies. As a kid, I was always a little afraid of swimming over the pool drain. The make ugly gurgling noises. They stink. Ick.
Full Definition of drain (From Merriam Webster): to draw off (liquid) gradually or completely….to cause the gradual disappearance of… to exhaust physically or emotionally… to make gradually dry… to deplete or empty by or as if by drawing off by degrees or in increments.
Which of these best describes describes you? Most days, it’s easy to be a drain. We are always surrounded by negativity (just turn on the news). It’s hard not to succumb to it and allow to color our mood, influence our outlook. Do you know someone who is a chronic drain? Probably not your favorite person to be around, right? They suck the very life right out of us. They are critical, self-serving and impatient.
Instead, imagine yourself as a fountain: Life-giving and replenishing. Even when things are bleak, you can be a source of tranquility. Some fountains have calm pools of water or sprinkle gently instead of forcefully. You can choose which to be. People who are like fountains are self-controlled, joyful and encouraging.
How to be a fountain and not a drain:
- Random acts of kindness – You can be a fountain to complete strangers! I stopped at Subway the other night, on my way home from someplace. Behind me in line, there was a police officer. He looked exhausted. It was pretty late for dinner. Without him knowing, I paid for his sandwich. (The benefit of being a fountain is that you get to feel pretty good, too!)
- Listen – Sometimes, people come to the fountain to think and not to drink. Be there for someone who needs to talk. Resist the urge to join in if they’re complaining. Reflect and validate – Don’t fan the flames. Just listen. Don’t make it about you.
- Compliment – Tell someone when they do something well. We all like to be appreciated. We all struggle. A little recognition can go a long way to boost a friend or coworker. Just knowing that you noticed might motivate them to keep going today.
- Be the light – Not the darkness. Keep your message upbeat, even when you have to be disparaging. Sometimes, we are called upon to be critical. Try saying, “I really like the way you did (X)! If it were my project, I think I would have tried this on (Y)…”
- Say thank you often. And mean it.
- Make eye contact. Let people see what’s in your heart. Good connections include a little soul bearing. Words are only sounds, otherwise.
“Be a fountain, not a drain.” One of my most favorite quotes, attributed to Rex Hudler, a baseball player-turned-commentator. I love baseball and celebrated an opening day win for the Sox this week! Most likely, he was speaking about sports. Fountains make great teammates, too. But I believe we are all partners in this life. So, there you have it!