Most of us will never aspire to be nuclear physicists. Only about 6,000 pursued the occupation in 2009 in the United States. Even fewer will paint their face and put on a polka-dot jumper and giant slippers to fill the role of a circus clown. Fewer than 300 of these slap-stick acrobats work in the United States. So which is the more specialized craft and which is more important – the one who splits atoms or the one who makes people laugh? Booker T. Washington may have known the answer before the question was asked when he said, “Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.” Based on that, scientists, clowns, engineers, doctors, dog-walkers, garbage men and custodians are each capable of mastery and worthy of honor in their given field.
Most of us will be employed somewhere between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Whizzo the Clown, but will we carry out our task with excellence? “If a man is called to be a street sweeper,” Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or as Beethoven composed music or as Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'”
I don't know about you, but I am tired of mediocrity. Pride must be taken in whatever task we encounter, whether it is completing a school assignment or securing a multi-million dollar contract. And the collective whole needs to turn this rig around and start setting standards of excellence again in this country.
A friend shared a disheartening statistic this week that symbolizes the ugly contagion of apathy. Only 36% of the teachers at one high school would participate in nominating students so the students could be recognized for good behavior, good attitude and willingness to put forth extra effort at school. Seven turned in their reports late! Oh, the irony! And oh, the pitifully sad statement it makes about what we value, celebrate and perpetuate in ourselves and in others.
Even a clown knows attitude matters. Just ask, David Solove, a Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Baily Circus performer. Reporter Olivia Crosby did, and she discovered what kept Solove out on the road for seven years. “You have to have a great sense of humor and a big heart,” says David. “It’s hard work, but if you love it, it’s great!”
Aha! Hard work isn't the problem. Work ethic is a heart issue and the desire for excellence is a gift from God.
Paul instructed Titus to always do what is good and to have a pure heart in every task and he asked him to share such admonishment with others. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3:1-8)
Profit isn't the reason we work. Our mission is to glorify God in our work and to operate out of love for our Lord. It is the more excellent way.