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Enough

The assignment was to identify all of the differences between frogs and toads. To a fourth-grade class, deciding how many constitutes enough is problematic. Within a class of nineteen, at least ten asked how many differences would complete the activity. The answer, of course, depends on more variables than the obvious.

To a biologist, a minimum of ten dissimilarities would be mandatory, especially for a proficient scientist. To a fourth grader, two or three are absolutely sufficient. To an educator, the answer is predictable: whatever it takes to answer the question completely and intelligently.

Perhaps I contaminated the answer possibilities by dangling the promise of free time after science. Those of us who are adults would spend as much time as necessary to submit a thorough and accurate answer.

Ponder this for a moment, if you will. How much would our world be enhanced if we collectively did more than the minimum? Of course, the answer depends largely on the situation.

It makes me wonder if the Constitution would have been better in any way if it was more than what was considered sufficient. The same occurs to me about T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men.

It could be that in some cases, the best and most appropriate answer is, “Trust your gut.” That wouldn’t work so well with fourth graders who walk the thin line between satisfying a requirement and excelling. Trust your gut is also true for exercise, eating and getting sufficient rest.

For the rest of life, exceeding the minimum is a tantalizing idea. If we had $10 billion (or an infinite amount of money) to use for cancer and Alzheimer’s research instead of $2 billion, would we be closer to cures? The same holds true for hours dedicated to community service. It’s only when we promise exactly what is needed to suffice that we can legitimately anticipate mediocrity. Shalom.

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