What Is A Great Life?



It is fitting that this quote floated across Facebook today. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about a woman who heaven and earth paused for because she “did her job well”. She lived this quote every single day. And she did it as a high school lunch lady.

I doubt many of you remember your high school lunch lady. They aren’t usually very memorable and kind of fade into the background at school. They rarely have as much impact as that beloved teacher who encouraged you or a coach who helped you discover your passion. But I promise you, if you went to my high school you remember Bev.

Bev passed away a few weeks ago and as word got around Facebook and email, stories started following. I visited the guestbook on her funeral home page and there were 18 pages of entries. Entry after entry telling similar stories dating back to students who attended high school in the late 60s and 70s when she first started working at the school.

Bev never forgot a name. If you passed through the halls of Marshalltown High School she knew your name. At an age where everyone struggles with feeling left out and invisible, when you walked through the lunch line or visited the concession stand at a game, Bev would call you by name and offer you a “Sweet for a Sweet.” She made every single person feel special and important.

She seemed to know what kind of day you were having and had been known to give you the “broken cookies” that she “couldn’t sell” just when you needed them. Because nothing helps heal the wounds of high school like a chocolate cookie served with a wink and a smile.

Her family stated in her obituary that a trip to the grocery store would often take hours because she would take time to chat with current and former students. She was never too busy for you. She just made you feel significant. How rare is that?

As I read the outpouring of love on Facebook and her online memorial a quote came to mind that my pastor often says:

Our desire is to live great lives, and have a great impact, so we look for great things to do. As we keep a sharp eye for “great things” to come along, we wait. We wait as we attempt to identify our unique contribution to the human race. We wait for some massive breakthrough moment. We wait to be discovered. And as we are waiting to do something great, a parade of opportunities to simply and humble do something good goes marching by. While waiting for our moment of greatness, we miss out on a thousand moments of goodness.
Here’s a thought: What if we lead great lives, not through doing great things but rather, by doing good things over and over and over again. What if the path to greatness is repetitive goodness? What if greatness is goodness compounded? I suspect that we arrive at greatness through the lengthy corridor of repeated, small, humble, acts of goodness.
This was Bev. By the world’s standards her life was a humble one as a lunch lady in a small town high school. But to any person that crossed her path her impact was great. And the thing that seemed to have the most impact was simply a smile and an acknowledgement that every person she met had value and was worth her time.
Such a simple and powerful legacy. God Bless you Bev.



  1. This was lovely! What a great example. Thanks for sharing her memory and her life.

  2. Beautiful.

  3. Oh, I want to be that kind of person. Who makes everyone feel special. I love that. I don’t think I do it very well. God, please don’t let me be too busy to love people.

    I remember reading about how Henry Nouwen, the great theologian and writer, worked in a nursing home or hospice or something, doing menial labor. He felt that was his greatest work.
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