It takes so little to be above average. That's what Christopher and I were talking about as I drove him to class a couple weeks ago (when I needed to drop him off at work after class).
He had been updating me on how his friends were doing in college, both his public school friends and homeschoolers. We talked about the direct relationship between time put into studies and grades received, as well as what one retains into the next semester.
He spends a lot of time studying when he is not working at the bookstore (which is why he is resting instead of breaking open the books over the Thanksgiving Holiday break). I only wished he was as diligent about cleaning his room. :)
During our conversation that day, I told him about one of the books I used to read over and over called It Takes So Little to be Above Average, written by Florence Littauer in the early 1980s. It contains a lot of the material she taught to people in leadership positions (whether in a local church or at the national speakers level).
That book was one my most influential reads, so much of the wisdom has come back to me throughout the years. Not only in the "big" areas of life but even those small decisions, like how we look when we appear in public.
She often mentioned things like... it only takes five extra minutes of work to go from mediocre to above average. Which would cause me to change from my sweatshirt into a pretty sweater, slip on some earrings, dab a little mascara on the eyelashes, choose my leather shoes instead of tennies... and meet the world just a little more put together than five minutes earlier.
I took the book off my bedroom shelves today, the place where I keep many of my old favorites. I want to "skim read" it again soon. So much has changed since I first read it. At that time I was still working in a corporation, writing Bible studies, teaching a Bible class, and generally active in a lot of leadership roles. We were a two career couple with an only child. A lot has changed since then. :)
I thought of the book again this afternoon, which is how my ponderings came to be put to paper (um... HTML?) for today's post. I had a lot to do and very little energy in which to do it. But I set the dishes soaking in hot and sudsy water while putting a load of laundry in to wash and then went out to sweep the porch and set a few Christmas decorations outside.
It then took about ten minutes to wash the dishes and let them drain before I headed outside to sweep the layer of leaves off the deck for another five or ten minutes. Our first significant snow is expected tomorrow (I'm writing this Saturday night) and I knew a thick layer of leaves on the deck's wooden surface would not be good, even if we did have it sealed this Spring. My husband has worked hard to get up most of the leaves off the grass, not easy to do when one lives at the edge of a forest.
Hubby placed the wheelbarrow and a bag of mulch next to the young tree in the front yard for me. I'd noticed earlier today that the mulch added in Spring was all gone and he'd mentioned we had a couple extra bags in the garage. It took less than five minutes to pick up my gardening gloves and spread the mulch around the tree to protect young roots from harsh Midwestern weather.
(Yes, we live with lots and lots of trees around us but the previous owners had planted this one where the driveway meets the gravel lane... a very good addition to the yard.)
Before going back inside, I took the old pumpkins and squash (which had been used as decorations) out back to the compost pile. My husband had raked it up and a nice, rich black soil was showing from two years worth of composting on that spot. He's going to move our compost pile starting in the Spring to the corner of the yard where he spent two weekends burning wood. I may plant rhubarb and some flowers in this golden soil come warm weather.
I didn't think I could get much accomplished today but once again... it truly doesn't take much to be above average and have dinner on the table (chicken and dressing casserole using leftover turkey), a clean kitchen, porch and deck, and to keep up (a little bit) with outdoor chores. Just a little at a time, here and there, adds up to a lot of good.
One little note, though... it is a good thing to want to do our best and be "above average", not wanting to to just get by in this world. It is not wise to strive for perfection as that is not possible this side of Heaven.
Perfectionism leads to dissatisfaction with ourselves and others and will never bring peace. There is a lot we wanted to do in the yard (and house) that was not accomplished this autumn due to lack of health and finances. However, we did get all the essential work complete. If we look at what didn't get done, we would become frustrated.
Instead, we thank God that the most important house and garden work are finished, that I can still do laundry and decluttering, dishes are (usually) washed and put away as needed, meals are on the table, there are books to be read, and just enough "extras" around to create beauty and warmth for a cold winter's day.
Added: It is Sunday morning and I awoke to a world of white with snow covering everything, including the "vintage" red barn at my neighbor's farm. Nothing like it to inspire me to finish packing autumn and begin to unpack Christmas. More snow expected today and tonight.