Not that there’s nobody left who wants to do everything as well as possible (especially when dealing with others), but I think it’s safe to say that people who possess that kind of mindset and live by that approach are a whole lot less common than they used to be.

I often hear people say how nowadays hardly anybody seems to care about doing their best, and society is all about just getting by with minimal effort. A friend of mine often refers to his appreciation of excellence, but he also frequently laments its rarity.

You know what I’m talking about: Whether it’s at a store, restaurant or anywhere else where members of the human race mingle, it’s apparent that the minimum is often all that’s being practiced.

You’ve seen it: The check stand clerk who finishes a personal call on her cell phone before helping you, even showing body language as if you’re an interruption or a bother as you patronize the very business from which he or she draws a paycheck.

Or a post office worker who walks extremely slowly away from the counter just as you approach and makes a transaction that should take about 47 seconds take about five minutes instead.

Or the library worker who (without making eye contact with you) fiddles with a stack of about seven books while you patiently stand on the other side of the counter about three feet away waiting to check out a single DVD.

Those are only a few random examples, but it’s all so silly; the phone call can wait, the slow stroll is ridiculous and the books are in no hurry. Incorporating a microscopic amount of excellence (and common sense) would create a situation where both the customer and other stuff were handled in a timely, friendly (and efficient) manner.

A few years ago, my wife Wendy and I dealt with a prime example of anti-excellence that involved setting up phone and Internet service – and lasted about six weeks.

To make an incredibly complicated, convoluted and downright frustrating story short, it began with making several appointments when a technician was supposed to show up at our house, and repeatedly losing entire days waiting while none did. Then we were shipped two modems instead of the singular unit we contracted for.

Then to top it all off, we received a first bill that was literally hundreds of dollars higher than it should have been (and of course included charges for both modems and a shipping fee for each).

Really? Come on now.

Thankfully, Wendy made a call (about the 13th in an agonizingly long series) and the giant and erroneous figure was vastly (and miraculously) reduced to where it belonged.

It’s so sad. I mean, how hard is it to do what you do to the best of your abilities, rather than simply go through the motions in between the times you grab your “device” and check yet another inane message?

Honestly, it takes little to no “extra” effort. Look at it this way: If you’re at work or doing anything else involving interaction with other people, and you’re there for a certain number of hours, you’ll be there those same hours whether your effort is superior or poor.

So why wouldn’t it be the former?

I always like to look at the Biblical angle to societal issues, because that’s where the truth lies. And with regard to this issue, scripture not surprisingly says we should do our best in all things at all times, as if doing so for the Lord Himself (there are a lot of verses that illustrate that point, including Colossians 3:23-24, 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Proverbs 13:4).

Anyway, while I wish it were different, I know it probably never will be. As I’ve said many times in many ways, this is how things are now and it’s not likely to improve.

Too bad. I like the sound of living in a society in which appreciation of excellence is the norm and superior, unconditional effort isn’t rare.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at

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