I was so annoyed at the Duck Dynasty ordeal and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. Less than two weeks prior, the world lost a great leader, Nelson Mandela, who leaves us a legacy of love, forgiveness, and brave reconciliation. Media circulated beautiful tributes, yes, but within 13 days, attention shifted to an entertainer, and what he did or did not say. Our attention is being vied for every which way. It is getting increasingly difficult to focus on what is primary.
What is ordinary does not.
As a blogger, I am training my senses to look for compelling stories. Extraordinary acts, exceptional words, dazzling visuals. I am told in order to tell a good story, I must live a good story. There’s plenty of average in the world – I must be AWESOME.
Well, guess what? It turns out I am extraordinarily ordinary. I’m not funny, I stumble over my words, and I sing off-key. My character is also quite average. I am capable of being kind and generous, but also inclined to lose my temper, complain, and at times be downright mean. My life has been dotted with some significant milestones, like the moment we found out we were pregnant or our big move to China, but mostly the days are filled with breakfast, school/work, dinner, and bedtime routines. Ordinary. Average. Mundane.
Yet I show up to tell my story, and to tell yours because I believe our ordinary-ness doesn’t diminish our stories. Without boring blacks and greys, the artist can’t add nuance to her shapes; without shadows the painting can’t come to life.
Sometimes extraordinary is in the eye of the beholder. The first time my husband lifted our babies into the air and caught them back into his arms, the expression of wonder and delight said, “you are my SUPERhero, daddy!” The adoring children gave him an inivisible cape and turned the average man I married, extraordinary.
Sometimes extraordinary requires context. The routine act of getting out of bed may be a miracle for the one suffering deep depression. The simple choice of ordering a soda is no small feat for the alcoholic. Showing up to work day after day while dealing with pain and loss takes tenacious courage. What seems ordinary on the surface can possibly be a person’s greatest triumph.
Sometimes extraordinary is knowing where to look. My daughter and I watched the classic, Mary Poppins, over Christmas Break. The beloved nanny had to use magic to make things fun for the children. However, in order to change the jaded adult heart of Mr. Banks, all that was needed was to remind him, on his everyday route to work, to pay attention to the little old bird woman selling bags full of crumbs for tuppence a bag. Seeing this unimpressive woman brought to the forefront of his mind what truly matters in life. The ordinary infuses tremendous meaning.
This, then, is why I believe in the ordinary story over media hype. When ordinary people gather and look upon one another with eyes of grace and love; when they care enough to not judge, but appreciate the context; when they show up every day and pay attention, they begin to tell stories of love, forgiveness and brave reconciliation, ones as compelling as the life of the late South African president. They ground us in what is primary and inspire us to stay the course. Words from the wise wizard Gandalf the Grey,
I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.
To all my ordinary family, friends, and readers: I don’t want to tell you how to live a good story.
*I’m telling you you already are.*