How do you start with a little and get a lot?
It seems to me that’s a question well worth asking. If you are a parent, for instance, and you notice in your child a behavior that you’d like to see more of, how do you go about increasing the prevalence of that behavior in your child’s life? Or if in business you are a manager or part of a team, and you see in someone an attitude that you would like to see throughout your company or endeavor, how do you go about multiplying it? Or if you are a teacher, how do you go about starting with a little bit of knowledge in your students and then multiply it?
In the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, this is precisely what Jesus does: he starts with a little, and he ends up with a lot. He seems to have a very deliberate strategy for doing so, and it’s one that you and I can emulate.
First, it seems to me that Jesus was clear about what it was he wanted to increase. More important to him than increasing the amount of bread and the fish was multiplying things like sharing, helping, and having faith.
Being clear about we want to see increase is where we need to start as well. We also need to be clear about what values, attitudes, and behaviors we want to see multiplied. So, in a company I’ll want to determine what really is most important . Is it maximizing profit or customer service? And while an argument can be made that in the long run the two are the same thing, I can pretty much guarantee you that in the short term the two will be in direct conflict and that hard choices will have to be made. Which is the behavior that you’d really like to see multiplied throughout your organization?
As a teacher, do you teach to the SoLs (Standards of Learning), or to broader principles, or towards a love of learning itself? How you answer that question will determine what will be multiplied in and out of your classroom, and it will lead to very different approaches to teaching itself.
Or as a parent, what are the three to five values that you want to see increase in your children so that they become their character? In fact, if you are a parent, one of the things I hope you’ll do is sit down with your spouse, and with great clarity and intentionality, answer that question. What will those values be? Faith? Kindness? Respect? Compassion? Hard work? Because if we are not clear about this, then the world around us will by default select the behaviors, attitudes, and values it wants to increase –and we may not be very happy at all with the result.