A few years ago I had the opportunity to move to Israel for work. Anyone whose sole impression of Israel comes from the cable news probably envisions a stark, dangerous, colorless desert. However, the area where I lived, Tel Aviv, was anything but barren. It was beautiful, green, cheerful and full of life. Tel Aviv was also very, very different from the smallish town where I grew up in the Rocky Mountains. The differences in culture, food, weather, language, etc. coupled with a difficult and demanding work assignment were enough to cause me to regret my decision to move, alone, halfway around the world. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt quite as alone as I did my first Shabbat (Jewish holy day), wandering the beach front of Tel Aviv trying to find a restaurant that was still open after sundown (The Jewish holy day starts at sundown, and most businesses close). The familiar golden arches of McDonalds saved me that night, but it would take something much more powerful than a Kosher Big Mac to rescue my experience in Israel.
It was the next day that I met two American families living in Tel Aviv, one working for a large American corporation and the other working at the US Embassy. For some reason they decided to adopt me, the awkward, lonely kid from Utah. They invited me over for dinner, I went on outings with them as they explored the country and they brought me pasta when I was sick. One of them even let me crash at their house while I resolved a housing issue. In return, I started thinking of ways I could make their lives easier; I babysat when possible, tried to take a page from my mother and bake some sort of dessert, and acted as chauffer when their busy schedules needed someone dropped off somewhere. The simple acts of kindness and service these families offered completely changed my attitude and my time in Israel. They took a dark and lonely period and turned it into an experience which broadened my horizons and guided the course of my life. I’m still close to these two families; and even now, years later, I still say a prayer of thanks every now and then for the blessing of having them in my life.
Why the story? What does this have to do with the multifamily housing industry? Just this, you will never know the impact the small and simple things you do every day at work are going to have on someone’s life; whether it’s your employees’, your co-workers’, your residents’, or even a stranger’s. Do you want to create a stronger company culture? Do you want to increase cohesiveness amongst your team? Serve them, serve together, and encourage them to serve each other. Do you have an online payment solution? Allow your residents the opportunity to donate to a worthwhile charity when they pay rent. Organize and message service or charitable events for your residents, and watch your property turn into a community. Serve someone, take a minute, take an hour, take a day, and serve someone. Do it because it will result in a stronger, more cohesive organization, do it because it will provide you with some great PR material, do it because it’s going to strengthen your communities and make them better more attractive places to live, but mostly, do it because it’s right. Do it because somehow, somewhere, sometime, you are going to change someone’s life, just as my friends in Israel changed mine.