Several months ago I read “The Fred Factor” by Mark Sanborn. It was a great inspiration based on his mailman, Fred. Fred had gone above and beyond the normal call of duty. Instead of simply putting mail into the mailbox, he would watch the homes of those on his route when they would be on vacation.

It makes me think of the verse in Jude: “And of some have compassion, making a difference” (Jude 22).

We need to strive to make a difference in the lives of others.

Mark Sanborn’s book gives other examples of what Fred would do, and he shares the following principles (with my own commentary to supplement):

1. Everyone makes a difference

Fred is a mailman. You don’t have to be a sought-after speaker or a best-selling author to make a difference.

I remember a sweet old lady in my church when I was a teenager. Her name was Miss Winnie. I can’t remember her last name. She couldn’t do much because of different medical and physical problems. But you could count on a birthday card every year.

I didn’t appreciate it as much back then, but it was her way of making a difference. She even kept sending cards after I went to Bible college and after I got married.

2. Success is built on relationships

I am not a great people-person. My tendnacy is to keep to myself and mind my own business. I’ve had to work hard at being friendly and build relationships outside my family.

In June of 1999, our church got a new pastor. He was the son of our previous pastor, so I kind of knew him already. I was the head usher at the time and dis some other work around the church, like mowing and running errands.

He started treating me like one of his family, even having me over for meals. He built a relationship that made a great impact in my life. I owe him a lot.

3. You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny

Making a difference in someone’s life doesn’t have to cost money, like buying and mailing birthday cards. Sometimes it may cost some time, though. I had a pastor that used to say, “If you’re going to help people, it’ll cost you time and money.”

Granted, it doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Sometimes you can spend just a few minutes and change someone’s day.

I remember holding short services in different nursing homes. Okay – I guess it did cost money if you count the gas it took to drive there, but close enough. I would go (usually with a couple other people) to the nursing homes and spend a little time with the folks there. There were some that were fortunate enough to have family and friends that cared enough to make regular visits, but there were many that had no visitors during the week. So, we were their high point. We helped put a smile on their otherwise lonely face.

4. You can reinvent yourself regularly

Things change with time. People change over time. Needs change from time to time. We can – and should – change with them.

Also, as you grow and change yourself, you’ll start to meet people’s need differently. You see different things that you never saw before. As an adult, you start to see things in the world around you that was never noticeable as a teenager. As your experience grows and expands, you ability to help increases. You can learn to be more creative in how you help.

How can you make a difference and become a “Fred”?

  1. Start looking for simple needs that people have. Don’t look for the obvious – look for the things that only you and that person could possibly see. This isn’t to build your prestige.
  2. Learn to really listen to others. You’ll start to pick up on the little things that gnaw at them – things that you might be able to help with. Who knows, just taking time to listen may be all that they need.
  3. Brag on a person’s kids (if you know them). It’s one of the fastest ways to a parent’s heart. You’ll not only make the parent’s day, but it’ll help the kids, too.

Since Mark wrote “The Fred Factor” several years ago, he has recently written a followup book: “Fred 2.0“.  I have this one and will be getting to read it soon. He tells more about the original Fred and expands on the principles that were revealed in the first book.

Are you ready to become a Fred?