The Paperclip Award

220px-One_red_paperclipThe paperclip is only thought of when nothing else will do. Years ago we awarded one person each year The Paperclip Award, a paperclip. The award criteria was simple. A paperclip was a person who, though often in the background, could always be counted on for just the right word or act of encouragement at just the right time.

I don’t think we realize just how much and how often people need a paperclip – they need encouragement. There is never a lack of people around us who seem to delight in offering despair!  But a good encourager is hard to find.

Even in the best of times life can be overwhelming and living in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic for over a year now is hardly the best of times. It is easy to despair of making a difference and to lose hope.  It is easy to become so self-absorbed with our own needs that we forget to think about what other people need.  I don’t think we realize just how much some people struggle to get through each day.  People need encouragement to make it – they need a paperclip!

In his book Winning Life’s Toughest Battles Dr. Julius Segal quotes a report from the National Institute of Mental Health that says

“Many of our daily conversations are actually mutual counseling sessions whereby we exchange reassurance and advice that help us deal with routine stresses.”

We all need our hearts uplifted.  We all need hope and encouragement.  Paperclips make it their purpose to offer encouragement and hope to others; it drives them.  How different would our relationships be if being encouraging was our motivation?

Author Muriel Anderson says that four of the most important words in her life are “Of course you can.” She says that her father always knew how to say those words at exactly the right time.  She had a dream of being a writer and had begun to try her hand at writing articles, hoping maybe the local newspaper would publish them.  She was thinking of all reasons why it couldn’t, and probably wouldn’t happen.  She was young and inexperienced; the local paper was on a tight budget; they rarely bought freelance material.  She told her father, “I doubt I can get this article published.” He said, “Of course you can.” And she did — this is what launched her career as a writer.

Those simple words from her father were enough to encourage her to keep trying. Her father was her paperclip!

Being a paperclip really is that simple. Look for ways you can encourage people.  Chances are there is someone close to you who needs a good word from you. Maybe it’s your “significant other” or a friend or a someone at work or a classmate.  Start thinking: “How can I be their paperclip?

  • As a parent I can tell you that no matter how old you are (I’m as old as dirt!) your parents need a paperclip every now and then.
  • As a son I can tell you that no matter how old you are your children need a paperclip every now and then.
  • As a brother I can tell you that no matter how old you are your siblings need a paperclip every now and then.
  • As a husband I can tell you that no matter how old you are your spouse needs a paperclip every now and then.

Adopt the paperclip motto of Mother Teresa, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”

The paperclip. When you need to bind pages of paper together nothing else will do. Most of the time the paperclip sets on the desk or hides in a drawer, ignored until needed. But when needed it never disappoints.

And The Paperclip Award in your life goes to…

Continue reading “The Paperclip Award”

What Drives You?

I’ve always enjoyed reading the stories of successful people; finding out what drives
them.  What I find completely amazing (and intriguing) is that most people — those who accomplish the most in their chosen field — are rarely driven by money.

Jay Leno is an example.  He makes about $30,000,000.00 a year hosting the Tonight Show.  If the desire to be wealthy drove him, he could stop right there.  Instead he
performs an additional 100 – 150 concerts per year for audiences across the country.  Why?Because he loves his work.  He loves to write jokes and he loves to tell jokes.  That’s the driving force in his life — he loves to make people laugh (failed miserably with Conan!).

Years ago I remember seeing film of Walter Payton’s summer training regiment.  Part of it consisted of him running hills.  There he was in the July heat struggling to work his way up a steep incline, the earth giving way with each step as Payton fought to maintain his footing, remain upright and keep moving toward the top.  It was absolutely fascinating to watch, because it was obvious that he wasn’t out there for the money – – he already had plenty.  He wasn’t hoping to earn or keep a starting position — he already had a lock on the job.   Why did he do it?  What drove him on?  He had a passion for football, and he had a
passion for being the best – that was what drove Walter Payton.

It is a good practice to periodically ask yourself, “What is the driving force in my life?  What drives me?”   You can find the answer to that question in the answers to a couple of other questions:

  • What do you think about while you’re driving to work/school/carpool?
  • What do you think about while you’re driving home?
  • What do you think about right before you fall asleep?

Answer those questions honestly and you’ll have a pretty good idea about what it is that drives your life.

Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Life which has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of a gazillion copies.  What I like about Rick Warren is that before
he wrote the book, he lived it.  As a young man he became consumed with a passion for church planting. He was only 3 or 4 years out of college when he moved to Saddleback
Valley to start Saddleback Valley Community Church (now known worldwide simply as
the Saddleback Church).  He’s been there 32 years now and he doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.  He could, of course.  He could retire and spend the rest of his days relaxing on the beach and never again have to deal with staff problems or contentious church members or zoning laws or critics or any of the other nuisances of life.  But he keeps on
keeping on doing the job he started doing a quarter century ago.  Why?  Because the driving force in his life isn’t to build a nest egg for retirement, it is to bring people to a closer relationship with Jesus. That’s his purpose.  That’s the driving force of his life.  That’s what drives him.

What drives you?  Like Rick Warren says, we should be driven by certain purposes in life. What purpose drives you?  Success?  Money?  Revenge? Sex?  Power?  Leisure? Comfort?

In the second chapter of Colossians, Paul uses a phrase that never fails to get my attention. He says in verse two“My purpose is…” And he goes on to describe the driving force of his ministry.  He mentions three things that drive him.  The interesting thing is that they are all about relationships — how he wants to relate to those he knows and even those he doesn’t yet know.  He says, “My purpose is…” — and then talks about how he relates to others.  I find that very interesting and very relevant to our daily lives.

Whatever our purpose in life, one thing that we will certainly have to deal with is relationships.  Family relationships, social relationships, academic relationships, business relationships, church relationships.  Life is meant to be shared with others.   In many ways the quality of our lives comes down to the quality of our relationships.  So when we ask ourselves, “What purpose drives my life?” we are also asking, “What purpose drives my

Three things drove Paul’s relationships; to offer hope, promote love and bring faith.  Here’s Paul purpose statement:

(Col. 2: 1-5) . . .My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, . . .

I’ll write more about how this passage changed the driving force in my life for the good later.  Right now my purpose is to get to my cardiac rehab session on time (for once!).