So I have this coffee cup that I’ve had since college. It was given to me by a friend and I’m not sure how, but she completely nailed it in the gift-giving department because I’ve never loved a cup more than this one. Originally it had a saucer too, and I would feel so self-important when I used it, then the saucer broke and after a ridiculous tear or two, I realized it was the cup, not the fancy saucer that made me the most happy.
Enamel-cracked pink glaze with orange polka-dots, a lime green rim and a pink and orange striped handle, this cup is little, loud and not exactly what you’d expect–much like me. But, like this simple cup, though it isn’t the biggest, fanciest or even the best made, it has a purpose to serve and so do I.
I think sometimes it is easy to discredit ourselves as not being called to do great things because we don’t see ourselves as anything special. We tend to pass off the large, life-altering tasks to, “someone else,” because we start to buy into the lie that we aren’t really worth a whole lot.
It is easy to feel this way because life has a way of building enough troubles to make you feel small, and giving accomplishments a short shelf-life. Think about it, what are some of the greatest, most notable things you have done, compliments you’ve received or projects you’ve headed? Now tell me, did the legacy, gratitude or service outlive the major or minor acknowledgement you received from it? Or, like most things, did it really only live in the moment, and when the moment passed, was forgotten by all but you?
I don’t say this to make you feel insignificant, in fact, I say it to make you feel the exact opposite. We need to stop basing our worth on the trophies that line our shelves, the degrees that frame our walls and letters the trail our name and start realizing that life really is in the details. It’s in the people you stop to have a conversation with, the relationships you form with your family, the friends you have decided to invest in. Life is in the giving, it’s in the sacrifice of putting someone else before yourself just to see them smile. Life is the act of holding a hand, hearing a story, and placing greater worth on the value of another. This view on life is exhausting, demanding and at times, tests you for all you’ve got that’s worth giving, but in the words of Elbert Hubbard, “God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.”
Now I know I’m not famous, I don’t have any real breadth of influence, I am far, far from perfect. While I have a great deal left to learn about what it means to truly live, I do know that I give. I listen and I care. I take time from what I want to do for what I sometimes need to do–which is live for something bigger than myself. I’m not great at it, but I’m trying. The Greek philosopher Epictetus gave comfort to me when I read his words. He said, “Practice yourself, for heaven’s sake in the little things, and then proceed to greater.”
This quote gives me hope that amazing things can come out of my ordinary life if, like anything else done well, I just take the time to practice. I think it not ironic that the primary notable work of Epictetus was to preach the common brotherhood of man. If someone was wise enough to market this idea nearly two-thousand years ago, I think we should give his idea a little merit, (at least a passing thought).
So never forget that, small, cracked, unmatched or used as you are, you just might be someone’s favorite sight on the shelf. Remember that it isn’t about how you see you, but how others experience you that really determines your legacy. And I’d be willing to bet your purpose is no “little thing” at all. Go fill someone’s cup, no matter what it might look like.