Great & Noble Tasks

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”

– Helen Keller

{First, I definitely understand this sentiment. I have read hundreds of adventure stories in my life, and have often imagined myself as a brave heroine helping to overthrow evil , restore the kingdom, and save the world. Then, after I graduated from college, I was troubled for a while that I “wasn’t doing enough.” I was marketing engineering services for my company, spending time with family and friends, taking care of my house, helping out at church, and reading a lot. It didn’t seem nearly important enough compared to all I could have accomplished.

{It seems to me that American children are told that it’s everyone’s responsibility to save the world – or at least a significant portion of the homeless population / abused animals / AIDS victims in their area – through large-scale community action and advocacy. We should each have a great life cause, start a world-changing non-profit organization, and “make the world a better place.”

{I have a few problems with that. 1) Most people need to focus on keeping the world moving. Someone has to grow the crops, fix the cars, and so on. 2) Practically speaking, if we each started an organization, there would be massive overlap and wasted effort. Some people are entrepreneurs and organization-starters, and some of us are worker bees who make excellent low-level volunteers. 3) Most significantly, I don’t see a general biblical call for all of us to drop everything and go save the world.

{God tells us to love the people around us – to care for our families and friends, to work hard for our employers, to pray for our nations, to care for the widows and orphans around us, and to work against injustice and oppression. Some people are called to do that nationally or internationally (and good for them), but most of us need to do it locally. And because we don’t always see the big picture, and because our lives are busy, we help in a scatter-shot way that notices the exceptions and the people who fall through the cracks, and can adapt how we help to fit the situation – without having to fill out forms or follow policies like large groups have to do.

{In conclusion, I agree with Keller that, for many of us, our job is to do the small, everyday things (answering phones, installing carpet, changing diapers) as if they were great and noble. Because they are. They are important to the people we’re serving, and to the people we love. And I can’t imagine anything more noble than serving the people you love and the other needy people you meet every day.}

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