The first line of Parashat Ekev is difficult to translate. It looks like this: And it will be, ekev you will observe the mishpatim, and take care to do them, then Adonai your God will keep the covenant and the chesed that God swore to your ancestors (Deuteronomy 7:12). You get the basic idea, but the really important words don't go into English so well.
So for instance, rather than say in Hebrew im for "if" -- if you will observe -- the Torah says ekev. Rambam delves into the many meanings of this root, which is an unusual but not unheard-of way to say "if." It is the same Hebrew root as the name Jacob, the word "heel", and the idea of crookedness, a not-straight path. So Ramban says that God is hinting here: Even if your path toward keeping faith with God and the covenant is roundabout, if you eventually get there, God credits you as a faithful partner.
Most often, the term mishpatim is taken to mean civil laws, as opposed to ritual laws, or laws derivable by reason as opposed to those that have no explanation. Usually, the term mishpatim is paired with the term chukim -- the less-intelligible laws. Rashi takes note of the fact that in our verse we have mishpatim without chukim, and suggests that God means this: Even if your path toward keeping faith with God is through the easier laws, easier to follow and easier to understand, God credits you as a faithful partner.
We are reading this parasha during the weeks approaching Rosh Hashanah, and these comments of Ramban and Rashi boil down to the same lessons. God takes note of the good we do in whatever measure, by whatever motivation, and sees it as a complete vindication of our covenant together.
I think the lesson is even more important toward one another. Whatever expectations we have of the others in our lives -- even if they are high -- we shouldn't forget to give credit for the small things. A little effort at change; a small difference in attitude; an occasional kind word when we weren't expecting it... sometimes, these small things should count as everything. We should take the small changes for the good as indicators of good faith, of trying. And where someone is changing for us, even if it's just the first step of the many we really hope for -- we should rejoice that the other values the bond, the love, the covenant of friendship or marriage.
And that should trigger something in return. Encouragement, a thank you, or at least noticing. There's a time to expect a lot, and there's a time to see the spark revealed in just a little.