What is your definition of “success?” Is it a tied to bank statements or retirement accounts? Is it linked to the achievement of certain career goals? Or, if you have multiple children under the age of 5, is it simply defined as whether or not you have enough time to get a shower AND wash your hair on any given day?
If I were asked to define “success” my definition would be:
” Just One.”
This definition began taking shape one day several years ago at Wal-Mart. I was new in town and didn’t know my way around very well. I was nervous about driving in the snow and ice so I rarely ventured much further than the Wal-Mart that was right on the corner. There was an older gentleman–somewhere in his 70’s I’d guess–who worked as a greeter at the door. My kids got used to saying, “Good morning Mr. Manny!” as we breezed in and out. He always seemed sweet and friendly so one morning I decided to stop and chat. To be perfectly honest, I remember very little of the conversation. He rambled on about the vegetables he and his wife grew in their greenhouse, the price of produce these days, and about canning their own tomatoes to make their own spaghetti sauce.
The part I remember very vividly is walking away from him, looking at my phone, and feeling exasperated when I realized I had wasted 30 whole minutes of my morning.
But something incredible happened on our way out of the store that day. Mr. Manny stopped me. With a big smile he thanked me for taking the time to talk with him earlier and he said he looked forward to seeing our smiles again soon.
Walking to my car, I realized how much those 30 minutes must’ve meant to him. I wondered how many other people would walk through those doors that morning and would actually take the time to stop and talk with him. I felt ashamed that I had been so worried about “wasting” my precious time that I had failed to see how valuable my time had been to Mr. Manny.
That day I began to write a new definition of “success.” I stopped defining my success only by what I could achieve for myself and started defining it by what I could do for just one. Can I take one minute from the one million things that demand my attention and devote it instead to just one person in need? Can I sacrifice just one smile to brighten someone’s day? Can I make just one meal for a neighbor in need? Can I send an encouraging text to just one person who needs to know that they are loved? Can I risk my pride and accept the possibility of rejection in order to reach out to just one individual who may be hurting and searching for even a sliver of the hope that I possess? How can I use the gifts and talents and unique abilities that I have been blessed with to enrich the life of just one?
Two of the Gospels record a parable told by Jesus about a shepherd who leaves his flock of 99 sheep and goes off in search of the one lost sheep that has gone astray. By the end of the parable, everyone, including the shepherd, is rejoicing over the sheep—the fact that it was lost, but now has been returned “home” to the flock.
However, if you ask me, there’s someone else in the story worth celebrating. I tend to think the real hero in the story is the shepherd. The ‘search party-of-one’ who was willing to take a chance. The one who wasn’t afraid, didn’t second guess his next move, didn’t stop to make a pro/con list, or phone-a-friend and ask what he should do. He took off without hesitation after the one who needed Him because He knew that just one can be treasure enough.
Success is rarely something that just happens to any of us. It demands a series of deliberate actions—specific steps we take to attain the goals we set for ourselves.It requires us to take an honest look at where we are now and to plan a path to arrive where we ultimately want to be.
Since that day at Wal-Mart I’ve known exactly how to define my path to success. All I have to do is follow in the footsteps of the Shepherd and keep my eyes open for just one.
*THIS WEEK I BROKE THE RULES!! This post is part of an online community. A prompt is given every Friday and we are encouraged to just free-write for 5 minutes and post it to our blogs without over-thinking or editing. I didn’t edit, but when my timer went off, my fingers kept writing!!
If you’d like to participate, you can get more info and link-up on this site. This week’s writing prompt was, “Define.”