One of the struggles I’ve faced in my own followership is wondering whether my contribution is significant, or even needed. When we see ourselves as just one cog in a large organizational machine, it may be easy for us to dismiss the value of our participation. If we perceive our role as being nothing terribly special, if we overlook our personal uniqueness in terms of talents, experiences, and perspective, then we may conclude that our involvement is optional.
If we don’t show up, we won’t be missed.
I read some lines this morning from a poem by George Eliot. He presents some reflections and conversations featuring renowned manufacturer of violins, Antonio Stradivarius. Having listened to a masterful musical performance, we are encouraged not just to think of the violin-player but also of the violin-maker. While others chide Stradivarius for monotonously manufacturing violins for decades–calling him “a slave, a mill-horse, a machine”–and warn him that fashioning violins won’t save any souls (not even his own), Antonio makes an insightful response.
“While God gives [the master players] skill, I give them instruments to play upon. God choosing me to help Him.” His acquaintance, astounded at this blasphemous-sounding thought, challenges him with, “What? Would God be without violins if it weren’t for you?” To which Antonio replies, “Yes, He would be without Stradivarius’ violins…. If my hand slacked I should rob God…leaving a blank instead of violins. ‘Tis God gives skill, but…He could not make Antonio Stradivarius’ violins without Antonio.”
Eliot makes a challenging point through Antonio’s words. If we are idle, there will be something missing in the world. If we don’t participate, our organization, association, team, or office will miss out on something: namely, the contribution that only we can make. Even if it seems to us like a monotonous contribution of limited value, it is in fact something that no one else can do exactly like we can. Without us, something will be lacking. We make a necessary contribution.
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