It Takes So Little to Be Above Average

Photo by RBJ

I read Florence Littauer’s challenge years ago in her book, It Takes So Little to Be Above Average. But God reminded me of that principle in a truly simple way this week.

I had just semi-closed the misaligned door of the old armoire  in our bedroom. But as I rounded the corner to the hall, that book title popped into my head–as it sometimes does when I’ve given a half-hearted effort to do something.

You see, you don’t just “close” that door. You have to grab the bottom of the door, lift it up, and pop it into the proper groove before it will close tight all the way. And I admit, sometimes I just get lazy and leave it gaping open, rather than, um, make the above average effort to close it. 

Confession Time

Confession time. I don’t like to admit all the times when I selfishly or thoughtlessly choose in BIG areas (not just small ones) not to take the above average approach. But kindness, thoughtfulness, excellence, and love find their best expressions in the belief that it’s usually the little things that make the biggest difference in our lives. In a marriage, with our kids, for a neighbor, in our jobs, speaking or writing–no matter where, small things do matter. 

Oiling the Hinges

We all know those who seem to delight in bringing joy to others just by “oiling the door hinges”–sometimes silently and anonymously–or in this blog metaphor, closing the doors behind us, to make life smoother for another.

Great relationships thrive on little things: compliments, intentional caring behaviors, thoughtful deeds that say, “I love you!” Great businesses (and customers) grow and thrive through a series of small decisions and helpful attitudes.  

One of the many “little things” my husband does is to make the bed before I can. (He also “oils a lot of hinges.” A friend makes the effort to send encouraging notes to me through the year (and to scores of others), while another lets me know she’s praying for me at crucial times.

In a hundred little ways each day, wherever we are, we have the opportunity to wash feet, give praise, shut doors (or open them) in ways for others that are “above average.” If you’ve never heard of Johnny the Bagger and the Simple Truths of Service, watch this video, for a powerful picture of how someone used a small idea to make a huge difference. (Grab your kleenex–it’s worth watching repeatedly).

 Servant Spirit

You don’t learn how to be above average through compulsiveness, selfish ambition or competition. You learn it by focusing on others, through servant behavior. You learn it by watching the Master Teacher, Jesus, do His best work. Is it easy? Not really.

We All Struggle

While it may seem perfectly natural to some, all of us struggle at times to make a greater effort to “do the little things that matter,” in order to add value to someone else. Doing good to someone BEFORE they can do it to you is a great goal. Unfortunately, not many volunteer for the thankless job title of “Servant.”

But Jesus did.

Now some of you are chomping at the bit to add your timely suggestion: “Just fix the armoire door.” We might, eventually. It needs more than oiled hinges, however. But for now, that misfit of a door is a great reminder to me that it truly takes so little to be above average! :-)

“Whoever wants to be great  among you must be your servant….just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:26, 28 NIV)

Okay, I need your help to finish this blog. In the comments section below, would you add your creative thoughts on one of these two things: 1. Share at least one practical way in which someone does (or has done) one of those “little” things that have made a difference in your life. Or 2. Fill in the blank and write your uplifting take to this statement: “It Takes So Little to ____________________________________________. You will not be hounded, prodded, or automatically added to my mailing list if you do so. And your e-mail information does not show to the public. Will you take a moment to encourage someone else?

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    Comments

    18 Responses to “It Takes So Little to Be Above Average”

    1. alysha lathern on January 16th, 2011 9:54 pm

      It takes so little to…..lift someone up,make them smile.

    2. Rebecca on January 16th, 2011 10:50 pm

      A good one, Alysha. Thank you!

    3. Cher on January 17th, 2011 8:14 am

      Write and send a short uplifting note. It may seem too little a thing to do to me, but it may make all the difference in the world to the one I send it to..

    4. Rebecca on January 17th, 2011 11:36 am

      Thank you, Cher. And you are so right. Notes that people have sent to me in the past have made so much difference to me–both as a Christian and as a writer. They truly lift us up, in trying times–or anytime–and don’t take long at all to write and send. As a writer, I don’t ever want to write for others’ praise, but for God’s pleasure. However, I don’t always know who reads my words or if they have helped someone. When someone sends a personal note that tells me how it has encouraged them, it’s like a gift from heaven I can offer back to the Lord. We all need to encourage one another! Thank you for writing your comments!

    5. Erin on January 17th, 2011 12:38 pm

      It takes so little to…………… REALLY listen to someone. Not many people take the time to do so.

    6. Rebecca on January 17th, 2011 2:02 pm

      That’s very true, Erin. And when you know someone is truly listening to you, what a difference it makes! Thanks for writing.

    7. karen on January 17th, 2011 2:09 pm

      it takes so little to…make someone feel like they matter – make them realize that you SEE them.

    8. Mandi on January 19th, 2011 3:03 am

      Your words encouraged me. I believe we are all lead to places of hope from the Holy Spirit as I was this morning.
      It takes so little on my part to be the one to make someone else feel amazing. To be that one who writes the note, or compliments on something someone else has done for me or even for themselves. I hope today that God will fix my thoughts, and attitudes toward others-This devotional inspired me to give to others what I desperately need myself.
      Thank you for your words if encouragement Rebecca.

    9. Rebecca on January 19th, 2011 6:54 pm

      Very true, Karen. Thanks!

    10. Rebecca on January 19th, 2011 6:55 pm

      Mandi, it truly does take so little to do those things that mean so much to others. And we are always encouraged in the process! Thanks for writing.

    11. Barb Winters on January 21st, 2011 4:11 pm

      It takes so little to . . . give a sincere compliment.
      It takes so little to . . . thank someone.
      That brings me to how I found your blog. I won your book “Day-Votions for Mothers” through a promotion Vonda Skelton ran. Thank you for donating the book. I am looking forward to reading it and seeing what God has to say.

    12. Rebecca on January 21st, 2011 5:15 pm

      Barb, I’m so glad you won my book on Vonda’s site! And thanks for these great reminders to give compliments and thank others!

    13. ELizabeth on January 22nd, 2011 7:16 am

      It takes so little to…seems small and trivial but I always try to make the checkers at our local Walmart feel special,so many of them are seniors trying to make ends meet,I always want them to know they are appreciated and cared for.

    14. Rebecca on January 22nd, 2011 2:31 pm

      Elizabeth, this is a great one we can all try to do. Nothing done for others is too trivial. I’ve noticed the same thing as you and am trying to be more intentional about trying to make people feel special and appreciated, especially in “service” jobs. Nearly everyone goes to Wal-mart, (or whatever grocery store you go to), so that’s a good place to start. Thanks for sharing.

    15. Bonita on January 23rd, 2011 7:15 am

      It takes so little to say, “Hi”. There have been times when just being acknowledged has awakened something in me to just press on.

      Rebecca, this was my first read for this morning and u can’t even imagine the UNCTION it has given me. Thanx so much for being obedient to God through encouragement.

      Blessed_B

    16. Rebecca on January 23rd, 2011 2:51 pm

      Bonita, sometimes it’s the simple things that mean the most–and the things we stumble over and neglect the most. Thanks for our comments!

    17. Rebecca on April 26th, 2011 7:18 am

      Hi, I just found this website and it has really moved me; I even shed tears which I can’t even explain. Thank you Rebecca, it really takes little things to make great differences. Sometimes we don’t even know how great differences our actions make until we are told.
      Last Sunday, a member in my church said, Rebecca, any time I think of this church, you are the first to come into my mind.

      I always make sure to give the old people a warm hug and a little joke to make them laugh; that’s all I do even if I down.

    18. Rebecca on April 26th, 2011 12:29 pm

      And thank you, Rebecca. You are making a difference as you give to others!

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