I was watching Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, and the idea of the least we can do was discussed. Essentially, we say phrases like, “oh, it’s the least I can do”, all the time without really understanding what those words mean. In the episode, Jimmy returns a phone call saying it’s the least he can do, then Jerry does not return a phone call to demonstrate what the least he can do looks like.
This made me think not only about the least I can do, but how I communicate to folks every day. The least I can do is pretty shocking to think about. It is literally nothing. For any situation the least you can do is to not do a thing. It seems to me that most people, by default, tend to do something in most situations, making the phrase ineffectual. The implied meaning of the phrase is that of course I would do this thing because to not do this thing would be to do nothing, and what type of person does nothing? Therefore, I do this thing as the least thing I could do because not doing this thing is uncivil.
This idea gave me hope because more often than not people are giving you their most. I did not say their best, but their most. When you have the snappy and rude receptionist at the pediatrician office, that is the most she can do in that moment. Who knows why her most is so much less than we need, but it’s still the most. The least would be not a thing. When we fail at a new skill or a big project, it is still, for better or worse, ego or not, the most we could do. The least would be not a thing, which means no failure because no attempt.
This idea of the most we can do gave me even more hope. What in the world would the best look like? What if we decided to forget the least, forgo the most, and deliver the best. The best we can do in any given situation. This idea also comes with a dose of grace. We would not be allowed to diminish our best by saying, “well, this is the best I can do, sigh”….Oh no, that is the most we can do talking.
The best we can do is truly our best and worth being proud of despite pitfalls or failures. Because at times, even our best is not enough. But imagine a world where we all give our best. When you see someone in need of a kind word, give your best. When you see someone struggling, give your best. When it’s your turn to provide snacks for 30 elementary school kids, give your best. All these instances will look different every day, for everyone, and the best given will vary because we all vary. I think this shift in thinking is the primary difference between feline and canine psychology. Cats do the very least, while dogs strive to give their very best. I imagine a rabbit is somewhere in the middle. But to think that by simply changing the way we think about what we are giving, and the way our intentions bleed into the world around us, could have countless opportunities throughout countless days to positively affect the people we encounter…..to give our best, that is the least we could do.