It Takes So Little to Be Above Average
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. 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).
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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