“Everyone is chasing status, but serving the vulnerable is wide open in every field.” — Andy Crouch
I’m intimately familiar with chasing status. As an author, I’ve spent countless hours strategizing how to sell more books, attract more readers, build my platform, gain more social media shares, and rub shoulders with influential people.
I could tell you that this emphasis on networking and platform is an integral part of my job as a writer, and that would be partially true. But that’s not the whole story. The truth is, I like the status that comes with being a published author. I like the recognition. I like being known. I chase status because I want status.
I’ve been chasing status for a long time, and here’s what I’ve learned after years of hot pursuit: the chase never ends.
No matter how much we achieve, status is ephemeral. We will always want more – whether it’s better book sales, a more prestigious job title, a higher salary, a bigger house, a more expensive car, or a fancier purse. Chasing status is a race we will never win.
This is a lesson that’s taken me a long time to learn, and truthfully, on most days, I’m still learning it.
In his interview, Andy Crouch noted that when we focus our tunnel-vision solely on being the biggest, the best, and the most successful, we lose the opportunity to use our gifts to benefit others rather than ourselves. So many of us it seems, myself included, are wildly spinning our wheels in a fruitless attempt to Become Someone Important. Yet in doing so, we leave in our wakes a vast expanse of potential to make a real difference.
Setting our sights so narrowly on reaching whatever it is we’ve deemed The One Big Thing means we often miss the wide-open field of less glamorous but no less important work available to us.
This kind of opportunity likely won’t result in being known or recognized or famous, but as Martin Luther King, Jr., observed, there is the opportunity for a different kind of greatness here.
Last week, as part of my work for The Salvation Army, I had the opportunity to interview Daniel, a recovering crack cocaine addict who is eight months sober, on the road back to physical and mental health, and, having recently completed training, about to begin volunteering as a peer support counselor. As we chatted, the mix of perseverance, strength, and humility I heard in Daniel’s voice touched me deeply.
Writing part-time for The Salvation Army isn’t glamorous work. The story I wrote about Daniel, for example, will be included in a newsletter that will be mailed to fewer than 800 people, and I suspect far fewer than that will actually read the article. That work won’t impact book sales, help me build my platform, or earn me any name recognition. There’s no status in this kind of writing. And yet, talking with Daniel and writing his story was some of the most gratifying work I’ve ever done.
A couple of Sundays ago in church I listened to a soloist sing “Go Light Your World.” It was Senior Sunday, the day we bless the graduating high school seniors and send them off, and I teared up as I thought about the potential of each of these young men and women to impact the world.
The truth is, though, the ability to make a difference has no age limit. Each one of us, no matter how young or old, has the potential to carry our candle, to “run to the darkness, seek out the helpless, confused and torn,” as the song goes. Each one of us has been blessed with gifts we can use not just to increase our own status, but to serve those in need around us.
Reaching out to the Daniels in your world and the organizations that serve them with your God-given gifts won’t make you famous. It won’t earn you a lot of money or accolades or notoriety. It won’t make you “successful” by modern-day standards. But this I know for sure: it will offer you the opportunity for a different but no less beautiful kind of greatness, the kind of greatness that will bless you unexpectedly beyond measure.