Why we need to support people

My favorite barista

My favorite barista is an amazing human. She puts up with some horrible customers and yet always presents a cheerful, professional demeanor. As a regular customer, I’ve gotten to know her a little bit over the past few years. I’ve learned that she has a great and gracious heart. I enjoy being in her aura as much as I enjoy the wonderful coffee she crafts. She is what I think of as “good people.”

Last week, I noticed that the bright light that usually illuminates her eyes was slightly dimmed, so I asked how she was doing. We had developed enough trust that she opened up and told me she wasn’t doing particularly well. She had discovered that her long-time boyfriend had been cheating on her. To her credit, she immediately separated from him, and my sense is that this will be a permanent change.

I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

When trust is broken, it can be incredibly difficult to regain. At the end of the day, all we really have is our reputation. When that is damaged, our effectiveness bleeds away because people can no longer trust or believe us.

It is important that we support good people when they need help. For my barista friend, I expressed empathy and offered an ear if she needed to vent. I know that she is hurting. Even though I’m not within her inner circle of friends, I can nevertheless be a confidant if needed. Many people care about her and want to be supportive. For me, being an ally is something I can give back to honor the trust she has extended to me.

Helping people in our community

“Helping others is not only good for them and a good thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society for everyone. And it’s not all about money – we can also give our time, ideas and energy.” Action for Happiness

Our conservation district community is filled with good people. Sometimes things go wrong and they need help. A recent example is the devastation one longtime member of our community experienced last year when wildfire swept through his farm, destroying his fields and his home. People in our community stepped up and donated a significant amount of money to help him get back on his feet. Their financial donations said that they cared and that he was not alone.

There are many stories of support within our community. Most are relatively small situations where a few fellow board members or employees reach out to offer aid. We don’t hear of all of them, but there is always something going on somewhere. More importantly, there are always community members who are willing to help their peers. This is one of the things that makes our conservation district community such a special place.

Your circle of influence

When you help others, you are adding energy within your circle of influence.

If you visualize three concentric circles, the small one in the center is your circle of control. It includes the things in your life that you can directly control. The next larger circle is your circle of influence. The largest outer circle – your circle of concern – covers the universe of things you are concerned about. Inside that universe is the realm that includes things you can influence, and within that realm are the things you can control.

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey articulates this same point by distinguishing between our Circle of Concern (things we care about but can’t control) and our Circle of Influence (things we care about and can impact)

The idea here is that spending your time, money, and energy on things outside your circle of control and circle of influence is not very effective.

Read more about this idea at:

This is a very pragmatic way to help you decide when you should give your resources (time, money, energy) to something. I don’t have the resources to support everything I care about so I give to support those things and people that I can influence. For example, I am concerned about starvation in Africa but no matter how much I give, I can’t really directly influence an outcome that includes feeding everyone. Instead, I focus on activities (and the people behind them) more locally by supporting my local farmers.

I have donated to the Pacific Crest Trail Association because I have a library of incredible memories of hiking sections of the PCT. I have donated to the Washington Conservation Society because I believe in their mission. Over my 30 years in our community, I have given time and energy to many activities because what you do is important. These are examples of investments in my own circle of influence.

Is my barista inside my circle of concern? Yes. Is she inside my circle of influence? As our relationship has grown, the answer has shifted from no to yes.

Are our member conservation districts and the people who make them soar in my circle of concern? Yes, of course. Are they inside my circle of influence? Perhaps more often than I sometimes realize, the answer is yes.

Your circle of influence grows as you invest in it

The odd thing about your circle of influence is that the more you invest in it, the bigger it becomes. How does that happen? Perhaps it is because as we help others, we build more trust-based relationships. This is probably a six-degrees-of-separation kind of thing (also called the six handshakes rule) where our network of people is often larger and more closely connected than we realize.

Ultimately, our entire conservation delivery system is powered by people. Our conservation community is filled with people who recognize that by helping others, we help entire communities.

I’ll close with a few quotations to stimulate your own reflection about helping people:

Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.
― Mother Teresa

If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life.
― Author Unknown

Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.
― Arnold Schwarzenegger

Success depends on developing relationships, keeping your word.
― Senator Bob Dole

Thank you for all that you do to support the local delivery of conservation. No matter what niche you occupy in our system, your actions influence positive outcomes that help others. What you do is truly important work!

Tom Salzer, WACD Executive Director