“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” —Helen Keller
One day back in the late 1990s, I typed Helen Keller’s famous sentence into my PC in my favorite font, printed and cut it out, and glued it to a piece of red construction paper (because with two children under the age of four, that’s what was available at the time). I taped this masterpiece over my kitchen sink and it remains there to this day.
And here I am now using it for the title of my blog. Why?
When I think of this quote, I’m reminded of a time back when I was career-focused and intent on making a name for myself and a difference in the world. One of my bosses said that she thought of me as the employee most likely to walk into work one day and announce that I was joining the Peace Corps. It’s true that I was focused on my own career success at the time, but she could see in me a desire to do more, be more, accomplish more … in the service of others and for the greater good. I had felt it for years (I think a lot of people feel this), and I guess it showed.
I never did join the Peace Corps. Instead, God grabbed my heart and my soul and pulled me home—to his family and to my own. When I got married, had a baby, and became a Christian all within less than two years, I found a deep sense of commitment, purpose, and calling right at home. I felt very strongly that my mission field was my own family, my own children, and other people right around me. The worldly success, prestigious titles, and piles of money were no longer important or even appealing—yet my sense of purpose was still strong.
I long to accomplish a great and noble task: This has never changed. I long to do something meaningful, beneficial, important, and lasting.
But it is my chief duty: What I do each day, even the most insignificant things (making dinner for the 7,325th time, folding the laundry, helping a child sound out words, listening to a teenager’s troubles, holding my tongue when I’m irritated, volunteering at church, thanking my husband for something he’s done, preparing lessons, grabbing 10 minutes to copy Scripture into my notebook, taking the time to see how a neighbor is doing, starting a blog during a pandemic and doing my best to write well there—the list is endless and hugely varied) is what I’m supposed to be doing with my time here on earth. They are my duties because God has given me these people and he continually reminds me of all the many ways that I can bless them every single day. It is my chief duty.
To accomplish small tasks: See above list.
As if they were great and noble: We now come full circle, back to where we started, with that desire to do great and noble things. And in this one sentence, I see that I am doing great and noble tasks each and every day—and they are the small things, the things that matter, the things that change people and the world in ways that I will likely never see. I trust that the small things I do, with a positive attitude and gratitude to God for giving them to me, are making a difference in the world and in the lives of those I love.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” —Ephesians 2:8-10