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Success is measured by small, simple, kind deeds

The title sucked me in.

I was en route to the Food Court at ZCMI after a morning of trying to make sense of the latest developments in Kosovo. Or was it China? Anyway, I was faced with another difficult challenge: Should I choose salad, a submarine sandwich or chicken and rice?While pondering that task, I passed by Deseret Book. There, on an outside rack, was a book that had these words imprinted on the cover: "By Small and Simple Things."

I was hooked. The sandwich would have to wait.

I'm a firm believer that small and simple things are the keys to success for individuals, communities and nations.

After reading the flyleaf, I knew I was going to buy the book. The author, Anita Canfield, is an interior designer who resides in Las Vegas. What she says resonates.

"Most of us are going to miss out on life's biggest prizes -- the Oscars, Emmys, Pulitzers and Nobel prizes. . . . How can we then, as individuals, really, and not just philosophically, know true greatness?" She answers her own question toward the bottom of the flyleaf: "True greatness is found in the small and simple things that we, as ordinary people, do on a daily basis."

The book has a number of examples to illustrate that point. The people who are the richest aren't those with the most possessions but those who enrich others through genuine caring and simple acts of service.

Unfortunately in today's society -- in part due to what comes out of Hollywood -- success too often is equated to physical beauty and possessions. Liposuction, dangerous diet pills and cosmetic surgery are frequently used to try and change our outer selves. Imagine what would happen if that kind of attention was paid to our inner selves.

For many, the pursuit of money becomes an obsession. Things become more important than people. As a result, some discard spouses as they would a used car. Dysfunctional families become the rule rather than the exception when priorities center on material things and not relationships.

Pop quiz: What is the more likely to be asked at the Pearly Gates:

(A) How much money did you make?

(B) How did you treat others?

Each person is blessed with different talents. Some are able to excel athletically. Others have a gift for music. Others have skills that enable them to excel in mathematics, science, medicine, etc. Still others can paint masterpieces.

We all, however, have the ability to do the small and simple things -- such as being kind to one another and focusing on ways to help others.

An incident in Atlanta while covering the 1996 Summer Olympic Games reinforced that concept with me.

It was a typical summer day -- too hot and too humid. As I had done several times before, I went on a jog through a park that was about 10 minutes from the hotel. This time, though, instead of doubling back through the park, I continued running in a residential area, hoping to find a shortcut back to the hotel.

After running another couple of miles, however, I was informed by another jogger there was no shortcut as the next intersection was about 10 miles away. Disappointed and quite thirsty I turned and headed back to the park. If I could hang on until I got there maybe I could find a drinking fountain. Not heeding the Scout Motto, I had not brought a bottle of water.

I was now walking to conserve energy. About a mile from the park, I saw this simple yet beautiful sign on a lawn: "Joggers, you're welcome to take a drink."

There was an arrow on the sign pointing to the side of the house. A hose was hooked up to a faucet. I greedily drank, took a break and drank some more. Another sign near the faucet had the following inscription: "To repay this act of kindness, be kind to another."

A small and simple message that is powerful and profound and the key to true greatness.

Deseret News editorial writer John Robinson can be reached by e-mail at (jrob@desnews.com).