A few months ago, I attended what I anticipated to be an informational, if not inspirational event at our local Chamber of Commerce. I have been active there for some years now, and often enjoy their events, as I get a chance to network and love a chance to meet new people. Both my wife and I are gregarious, by all definitions, and we both go to these events. However, at this event, I witnessed a sad display of mediocrity.
At this event, I decided to offer a door prize at the end, as a way of advertising my business. Threshold Academy has as part of its mission the idea of helping people overcome mediocrity, and that message has resonated with women more than men. Since this event was designated “women in business,” geared for women involved in business leadership and management, it only made sense that I have a door prize as a way of getting a chance to share my hashtag and maybe make a new connection. After all, marketing at our chamber has created new business in my old career, and it has already reaped a harvest with this new career of coaching and adventure travel.
On paper, the speaker appeared to have a story of interest-a published author with some insightful words to share. At the time of the event, I still had not tied up loose ends on my first full-length book of fiction, and I was writing nearly everyday to get it done. Getting to hear from another published author seemed to make the event even more valuable.
Within the first few minutes, the speaker went down a tangent (I go down tangents when I speak, too) that included a story to engage the audience about her family and one of her personal demons. She shared her struggles with fitness and weight loss with the crescendo at the end when she concluded that her motivation was a desire to be physically able to walk onto a plane and go see her daughter when she delivered her first baby.
She was forthcoming in that she had not been successful taking care of her body for herself, for her God, or for her husband. It required her fear of missing out on a “matter of factual” event in life to push her to lose some weight. Before she could finish her intro piece, she was tearing up, and others in the crowd were crying with her and for her. After all, who doesn’t want to see a family united when a big event like childbirth occurs.
The crowd gave her a round of applause. However, I was dumbfounded at all the happiness. Do I clap to fit in with everyone else or boo such a lame set of standards? This woman’s goal was minimal participation, and I suspect no one other than me was willing to call her out on how shallow this goal was. She never made any reference to desiring to participate in the life of her future granddaughter. No references to acquiring the strength to take this future grandchild on a hike in the mountains while mommy and daddy are at work or teach her how to swim or show her how to run in a park. Her end game was to walk down the gangway at an airport and use transportation tools to see her daughter and granddaughter. That is it! Left over right, up and down, until mother and child were in sight. If so, then she was successful.
It reminded me of how local community sports now pass out participation trophies and no longer award the winner the spoils. Do your best, do your worse. Be there all the time, most of the time, or only when you want to, and you get the same prize and applause. I could not help but question why all the applause for her non-achievement?
Later in the story, she shared that she had her daughter when she was 45 years old, intentionally. I shook my head in disgust. This kid is getting shortchanged on the meaning of self-care and the biblical message of treating the body as the temple. Her mom will not be her example. That was a sad example of mediocrity.
I wondered why she started with this story, seeking applause and engagement for the most minimal of outcomes. Perhaps she had not yet concluded that she has left it to society to raise up this little girl to treat her body as a temple, since her Mom isn’t.
Now, for some hard facts on her circumstances that I have intentionally waited till the end to share. This woman was neither fit nor in control of her weight. She was of normal height and close to 200 lbs. She had cycled through diets like fashion statements. She thought she was doing well, but she probably had no idea that both her outcomes and future desires were mediocre and the stuff of non-mentionables in most people’s lives. For some mediocre is an acceptable outcome, but for no one should mediocrity be something you celebrate. No one. We are called to better.
I thought about the parable of the three men and the talents. For background sake, a talent is equal to one lifetime of earnings for one person. The men whom were giving 5 talents and 3 talents, respectively, each invested and took risk, and they improved their lot by all measures. They were applauded by their master and received accolades. Yet, the man with one talent did nothing other than to bury his money, and he was reprimanded for it. Considering how much time she had and the amount of resources she has access to, the gift God gave her with her body would be considered parallel to that of the men with 3 or 5 talents. She wasn’t born in a 3rd world country, and she was educated and had ample wealth. Yet, she acted like the man with one talent, burying the wealth of her temple and settling for a mediocre outcome.
We all meet out maker and experience judgment day. I wondered when she is asked, “What have you done with the temple I have given you and all its riches?,” and she shows a woman walking down a ramp at an airport was the response might be. I can’t see many happy faces in that moment.
At the end, when I was called up to present my door prize, I had a full paragraph to share with that woman. Here is what I wanted to say.
“You need help. Your lack of measurable goals for the temple of God is visible to all, and you need some help not only with creating some goals but executing the plan to achieve them. You kids and grand-kids deserve more than a grandma who can walk a few feet. Hire me so you can have a lifetime of fitness and actually participate in their lives instead of outsourcing it to gymnastics coaches and piano teachers.” But I didn’t. She wouldn’t have heard it. I wouldn’t have said it. It would be embarrassing for both of us and leads to mediocrity.
Instead, I introduced myself and my company and shortened by pitch to a brief sentence.
“I help people overcome mediocrity.”
Perhaps someone will get the meaning of what I said against what the speaker shared. I said nothing more about me or my company, its goals or its clients. Maybe someone else saw her mediocrity besides me, and they would come up and talk to me afterwards. Maybe not. But that was all I had to share in this moment.
After a 2 second pause, I then switched to some humor to keep the ladies lightly engaged. The truth of the moment for me was I felt embarrassment for the speaker, but I didn’t want to show it. Humor covers that up better than anything else.
I will keep coming to those events, as I love a good story and a chance to meet people. But I don’t think I can just go with the flow and clap for mediocre. That may help other people who think mediocre is OK feel OK, but for those of us who know we are called to more, I shake my head in disgust. Jesus paid too high a price for us to be happy with mediocrity.