I delight in the opportunity to learn from my former students. Last week I was reflecting on the insight provided in an email update from Marris Smith (LCS Class of 2007) who is winding up her service as a nurse on the Mercy Ship in the Congo. She reflected on the glorified spin some folks take to her time of service there. Marris points out that it's not all that it can appear to be. "There are good days and not so good days. Exciting moments and boring weeks. The cool pictures people see only highlight the major events. Most of the days here are pretty typical. Transformations take weeks and months! So much of what happens here is about the little things."
"...A lot of smalls."
I recently read, "One Last Strike" by former St. Louis Cardinal manager, Tony LaRussa. It provides an interesting insight into the mind of an exceptional leader as well as lots of great baseball stories. LaRussa reflected upon a critical 1-0 Cardinal win by stating that, in such a game, there are often not a lot of great moments, but there are "a lot of smalls."
"Highlights" vs mundane faithfulness
We live in a "Sports Center Culture" that tends to focus on the spectacular highlights and ignore most of the game. The thunderous dunk might only be two of the team's 95 points scored in a two hour game, but it's all that is shown on the nightly "Top Ten Plays of the Day." Ignored are the many little plays that made the spectacular play possible.
In the education of children, little things matter. The kind smile and word of affirmation; the extra effort to write the encouraging note on the struggling student's paper; the pat on the back for the player who spends a lot of time on the bench; the kind spirit when holding someone accountable; the unexpected silence when the situation invites sarcasm and criticism; all shape a life in incremental steps.
As parents, the little things matter, too. Taking the time to read the Bible and pray with our children, day after day, and not just on special occasions or times of discipline underscores our dependence on Christ. Faithfulness in worship together week after week, year after year shapes our affections. Encouraging responsibility in household chores, curfews, time management, academic effort, and punctuality all take intentional sustained parental effort. These habits free young people to mature and live effectively.
As Marris wrote, "Transformations take weeks or months." The apostle Paul wrote, "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9) In I Corinthians 15:58 he encourages steadfastness in our work knowing that, "in The Lord, your labor is not in vain."
Daily faithfulness or the big event?
My dad used to say, "Life is so daily!" in recognition of the fact that life is made up of a collection of small decisions, practices, and cultivated habits, that all fit together to shape ones future.
As we consider our roles as educators and parents, let's not grow weary in the little things that will make the difference for our students over the long haul. The most powerful influences in their lives may not be the big accomplishments or events we are tempted to long for. The critical difference in their lives may very well be the quiet, uncelebrated little things done well over time by teachers and parents who do not grow weary in doing good.
Photo Credit Ruben Plomp, Marris SMITH (USA), Nurse