Common Thread

Little by Little

I distinctly remember helping my father build a fence in our backyard when I was about 10 years old. There was a fence already there that the previous owner let rot in a few places, and my dad decided to replace the whole thing. I remember everything about that day: the hot sun, the splinter I got in my thumb from carrying a fence post, how good my mother’s iced tea tasted, and how great it was when I knew the tool my dad needed when he called out its name like a doctor in surgery.

While working on this project, I remember inserting my opinion, as if I knew more than my dad about building fences as a young boy, that a fence post would fit in this one corner section—even though it was a little too small to really cover the space. My dad made it a teachable moment, the way only dads really can, by asking me a question that now is repeated in my house on a constant basis: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when are going to find the time to do it over?”

While the lesson my father taught me about quality work that day was invaluable and has shaped the man I am today (hopefully anyway), I wonder if that question can become a hurdle that is too high to jump when we apply it to our lives as a whole. Recently, I read “Wisdom for Effective Living,” by Richard Simmons and was reminded that perfection is rarely attainable, but that shouldn’t stop our pursuit of it. Perfection is less about the end result of what we are working on and more about the character it develops in our souls.

“I therefore encourage you to seek to be your very best. To seek a life of excellence, but to be content with who you are, with what you have, and with what you have been able to accomplish. God does not care how you compare with your neighbor. He cares for how well you employ your time, your talent, and the resources He has given you.” – Richard Simmons

Our drive for excellence should motivate us to work harder and harder to become who we were created to be through constant daily improvement in every aspect of our lives. Far too often, however, we choose to believe that excellence should mean that we only do the things that we are naturally good at, and not seek to improve the whole of who we are, little by little, day by day.