We were listening to playoff baseball on the radio during a recent road trip. The announcer was talking about a player and detailing several teams that he’d played on. The broadcaster said, “he’s turned himself into a serviceable player.” But the way he said it almost sounded like an insult. The player was not a superstar, not a name everyone would know, but he’d obviously made a career playing baseball at the highest level. Looking at it objectively, this man’s career was successful considering how hard it is to make it in the major leagues in the first place. Just because he wasn’t the most famous player didn’t make him a failure.
The use of the term “serviceable” bothered me, so as is my custom, I looked up the definition. I liked what one source said, “helpful, useful” (merriam-webster.com). But then I found a definition that captured the negative connotation I’d picked up on from the radio because it said, “good enough to be used for a particular purpose but not very attractive or exciting” (macmillandictionary.com). It seems like it’s natural for us to be drawn to people and things that are highly attractive and exciting. Our celebrity culture demonstrates that it’s possible to be famous for being famous. Our social media lives are distorted and manipulated to show only the best, whether the images are authentic or not. We feel like we are less than when we compare ourselves to people who are more successful by society’s standards, more money, bigger house, fancier cars, nicer clothes, better careers. Being “good enough” in our world often equates to failure in our eyes. We feel like we’re “nobody” if we aren’t a popular or well known “somebody.”
But maybe being serviceable should be our goal. To be helpful and useful to our families and communities means we are dependable and stable. To have a particular purpose suggests we have reasons that inspire us to be proficient and capable. We are asked to serve multiple roles in our lives. To be of service in so many areas is a great accomplishment even if no one highlights us as the best or most successful. Most of us will not achieve flashy titles or over-the-top headlines, but we will create caring homes that support our children. We will help our senior parents navigate the aging process. We will be team players at work and school. We will volunteer our time and effort at church, at our kids’ activities, or for causes that we value.
We will demonstrate devotion and dedication when we show up day after day. We can take pride in being reliable, loyal, and committed to others. We can find contentment in serving others well. We should strive to make the term serviceable a compliment, not a slight. Many of us may never know the extent of the positive impact we have on people, but that doesn’t make us any less important to the world. Seeking to be serviceable is a worthy way to live. Being good enough is simply good enough.