Michelle is one of the greatest examples of what it means to be a loving and selfless individual that I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet. I often crossed paths with her while she was providing some act of service for another individual: bringing a hot meal to a new mom, visiting a lonely neighbor in need, or helping to drive a handicapped woman to the airport. All this was done while carting around her two-year-old and even still while she was pregnant with her second child.

Though life wasn’t always a walk in the park for Michelle, she always managed to wear a smile and bring sunshine into the lives of those around her. Her cheery disposition and positive attitude made it easy to become instant friends with her. She always offered a happy “hello” and had the best advice when you needed it. I remember one specific conversation Michelle and I had about why it was important to reach out to others and make friends.

I expressed some frustrations about how fluid my life was at that time. It felt that anytime I met someone new and started to develop a relationship with them, they would graduate from school or get a new job and move someplace else. “I would like to have more friends, but it’s almost pointless for me to try and meet new people,” I said to Michelle, “because in a matter of months they’ll move and I won’t see them ever again.”

“Well,” Michelle began, “Reaching out to others and making friends is a lot like planting flowers. Some flowers only last a season before they’re gone. But the time you spent tending to those flowers, pulling the weeds, and helping the flowers grow wasn’t wasted because you got to enjoy their beauty while they were in bloom, even if it was only for a little while.”

“And think about the positive influence you can have on their life as well. If you take the time to listen to others and better understand their needs, you will be better equipped to provide some type of service for them during the short time that you knew them.”

It is tough when the flowers in our lives fade away, but that doesn’t mean we should never plant them. Michelle taught me that not only does getting to know others brighten our own lives, but it opens the door for us to be able to serve and help them when they need it. As we make an effort to get to know those around us, whether it’s our neighbors, the waiter at our favorite restaurant or a fellow coworker, we increase our social circle and our opportunities to serve others.

This week, take a little extra time to try and get to know those around you better. Here are three simple ways you can try to plant flowers and grow your relationships.

Ask the grocery store clerk how their day went.

Odds are that you shop at the same grocery store at the same time every week. If that’s the case, you probably run into the same grocery store clerk quite often. This week while picking up your carton of milk and a bag of chips, ask the cashier about their day and try to remember their name. That way the next time your paths cross you can call them by name and start a conversation easier.

Write a “Thank you” note to an acquaintance at work.

It can be surprisingly easy to go through the motions at the office and not really get to meet the people working around you. This week take a few moments to write a quick thank-you note to someone you would like to get to know better. Not only will it brighten their day, but it will also help to grow your relationship with that individual.

Bake your neighbor some cookies.

Everybody loves cookies, and sharing some with your neighbor is a great way to start a conversation with them. Bringing over a hot plate of chocolate chip cookies will give you a few minutes to ask about their family and how everything is going in their lives. You can even use this visit as an opportunity to offer to help with anything they may need, like raking their leaves or carpooling for school.

Reaching out to those around you doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming, but the relationships you develop will help to brighten your life like a newly blooming tulip or a vase of beautiful red roses.

Author: Brindisi Olsen Bravo

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