I once had an idea I considered brilliant for a book to be titled “Dare to be Average.” I envisioned a lighthearted parody of the motivational program “Dare to be Great.” A Google search, however, determined my proposed title had already been taken. I’ve not read the book by David Martin, but per the brief description his concept seems to be in sync with my own.
Jimmy Collins is a friend and a member of our men’s Sunday School class at Vienna First Baptist. I told him about my initial excitement for such an undertaking and related the unexpected transition toward disappointment. He suggested an alternative title, “Aspirations of Mediocrity.” Jimmy thought my inspiration to cover a topic that had already been addressed further validated the project.
Since then I’ve learned that book titles aren’t protected by copyright, so if I want to title my book “Dare to be Average” then legally I can. Copying a title seems like a good beginning for a book which heralds the celebration of coming in second in a three-man race.
I don’t remember ever hearing a squad of cheerleaders enthusiastically chanting, “We’re Number Two!” That wouldn’t resonate with most crowds. And parents never boast to their friends, “Just look at my kid! He’s about average!” But maybe we should rethink some of those things.
I doubt I will ever write such a book. That would take a lot more than an average effort. But I hope this column will encourage others to celebrate life in the middle of the pack. I should probably clarify that a bit. I’m not saying our goal should be to secure a spot near the middle. We should, instead, fervently try to excel. But there’s no shame in average results if we’ve made our best efforts.
I’m an average piano player, better than some but not as good as many others. With a lot of practice, I might be able to move up a notch or two on the list, but I’d still fall into that group of folks with mid-level talent. There’s nothing wrong with that. I enjoy playing and I play well enough to help out at church. I’ve been to a few nursing homes recently and so far no one has complained. If I aspired to greatness on the piano, I would have become frustrated long ago and probably quit playing.
My wife enjoys sewing, but it takes her a long time to complete a detailed project. She is an unlikely candidate to win Seamstress of the Year, but that doesn’t diminish her pleasure. Our grandchildren don’t check to see if the stitching is perfect. They thank her with a big hug. Average talents can produce exceptional results.
One area, however, that is tempting to settle too easily for being average is our faith. Our churches have plenty of empty pews to prove it. We tend to give our best efforts to our jobs, hobbies, and hopefully our families. But giving our best to God can be a lot more challenging. His reward system is a long-term plan. It doesn’t promise a paycheck at the end of each week.
Years ago, a couple came to my office at Bank of Dooly for some financial counseling. They had, as the country song says, “too much month at the end of the money.” When I reviewed their checking account it surprised me they faithfully tithed. I mentioned it, not sure where the conversation was headed. The husband said, “We write our check to the church the first of every month. We might not have the money to tithe if we waited.”
I don’t know if I helped them with their budget, but they helped me with my perspective. If we only give from our abundance, then we’re settling for being average. That’s true of everything, including our time, talents, money, and attitude. The greeting that Christians hope for one day is, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) It sure would be disappointing to hear Jesus say, “It looks like you were about average.”
There are a lot of days when the average line is the one I would be asked to stand it, but that’s not what Jesus wants for any of us. He can use average talents, but he expects our efforts to be the best. Maybe a better title for a book would be “Dare To Be Our Best.” I think I’ll check Google to see if it’s already been written, but that can wait until tomorrow. I’ve already made an average effort today.