Monday, March 19, 2012

A Big Difference . . . With a Little Effort

Would you like to feel you’re making a difference in the world – or more specifically, in your world?

But how? You or I aren’t likely to discover the cure for cancer, or end world poverty and hunger. Odds are against us coming up with the next great, life-changing invention. And these days it seems only a fool would run for President of the United States, so forget that. So how can we make a difference?

In their book, Simple Truths of Service, Ken Blanchard and Barbara Glanz show even a small, simple thought can result in a big difference. They tell about “Johnny the Bagger,” a 19-year-old grocery store bagger with Down syndrome.

Glanz, a customer service trainer, had spoken to store employees about “creating memories for your customers that will motivate them to come back.” 

A month later she received a call from Johnny, who admitted he initially didn’t think he could do anything special for customers. Then he had the idea of selecting a thought for the day, having his dad help in printing the messages on small pieces of paper, and then placing the thought of the day in each customer’s grocery bag.

As customers came to the register, he'd bag their groceries, put his thought for the day in their sack and say, “Thanks for shopping with us.”

Soon, according to the store manager, Johnny’s checkout line was always several times longer than the other lines – filled with shoppers eager to receive his daily “thought.”

Not only did customers arrive at the store anticipating the pleasant surprise they would receive upon checking out, but other employees also began devising novel ways to “create memories” for customers in their own departments. “A wonderful spirit of service spread throughout the store,” Glanz commented. All because one young man, despite a disability and a humble, “unimportant” job, chose to make a difference where he worked.

Johnny is hardly an exception. Looking at the life of Jesus, the difference He made day to day didn’t come from outrageous acts. He didn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, or make mountains disappear. In fact, the times He was challenged to flaunt His powers, Jesus declined.

Instead, He washed disciples feet. He gathered little children to Himself, demonstrating how precious they are to God. He affirmed the great worth of women in a male-dominated society. He fed thousands with a handful of fish and bread.

A song I loved to hear years ago affirmed, “God uses ordinary people.” That’s true: Our extraordinary God uses ordinary people like us to accomplish great things, one little step at a time. Maybe we should also aspire to be like Johnny, doing something simple that can make a great difference.   

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