Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Merits of Being Ordinary

You all won't believe this, but I am writing this post from the floor of the bathroom of our hotel room in Salt Lake City.  Why, you might ask?  Because my entire family is vegging out in front of screens of all sort,  trying their best to relax after a wonderful, hectic week.  I want to type, and yet don't want to disturb their darkened room, so here I sit.  At least I have a couch cushion under my behind to soften the blow! Hahaha!

It might be hard to follow my thinking in this post, because I am working something out in my head and that always takes time.  I have been thinking a lot lately about the merits of being ordinary.  Having had numerous encounters with success lately...other people's has brought to light that I will never be one of "those" folks, you know, the ones who are diligent, hard working, maybe even a little fanatical about making their mark on this world.  First it was homeschool conventions where the goal for many, many parents is to have kids graduating high school at 15 and move on to the Ivy League.  Then it is on to the food show today where we were surrounded by super successful restaurant owners who have multiple franchise units, pulling up in their large Escalades and writing huge orders.  What do we pull up in?  What Dominick has begun to appropriately call our "Clown Car" due to the looks we receive from others as we get out, then another kid, then another kid, then another...and so on.  It's actually pretty hilarious, and we get a kick out of it.

Then yesterday evening while reading in the dark while children slept, I was wasting time blog hopping, something I rarely do actually.  I read a post that was linked from the Huffington Post, I think, which was how I found this particular blog.

This mom's blog is amazing.  She is going to be published by a big time publisher. She has risen above a very tough earlier life, and is married to an actual male model and has gorgeous children.  She is also very, very real in her posts and does a ton to raise money for others, which I so admire, for her blog has taken on a life of its own and is really a ministry now. I'll bet she even manages to feed her kids something besides boxed cereal for breakfast every morning and has the laundry all caught up at least once a week!  Haha!  Super Achiever in the Mommy Blogosphere.  Needless to say, I am totally not.

What captured me though was the quote she used on her post that I first read, let me share it here with you:

“The plain fact is that the world does not need more successful people, but it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.” – David Orr

Finally, something that puts words to my own feelings.  The world seems to be so out of balance these days, as we celebrate those who stand high above the crowd, or sometimes even seem to elevate those whose behavior is abhorrent and exactly the opposite of what we wish to see in the world.  Then there is the wide band across the middle, to which our family proudly belongs.


Ordinary people who try hard, fail daily, get up and try again.  Ordinary in looks, ordinary in talent, ordinary in intellect.  Ordinary children who work hard to learn, to mature, to grow, but will forever likely be ordinary just like most of the rest of us. Ordinary parents who screw up and go back to the drawing board.

BUT...we are ordinary people who love, ordinary people who in their ordinary lives try to bring a little light into dark places. We are ordinary people who work at being healers, who try to restore to wholeness not only ourselves but those around us.  We are ordinary people who work at peace and try hard to reconcile where possible.

I tend to think that God loves to work with the Ordinary, for that is where the surprises are!  God uses the ordinary to delight us and inspire us, to reflect moments of what the Kingdom is that is talked about so often but can't yet be sustained.  If God used only the successful to create a Kingdom, then it frankly wouldn't be a Kingdom I'd want to reside in.  We can all relate to ordinary, we see ourselves in it, we find a kinship in it.

Now, this is not to knock the extraordinary folks whose gifts and talents make our world better.  But the extraordinary are rare, even though it is they we hear the most about.  It can be hard to see that there is no need to measure up, Lord knows I struggle with that all the time.  I have friends who are exceptional in so many ways, they are starting businesses, they are super well educated and incredibly intelligent, they are artistic and well spoken.  Yet I am sure that in their own minds, there are things that the struggle with too, areas in which they feel as ordinary as I do.

There is one thing that is never, ever ordinary though, and that is love.  That is the way in which every single person can stand out, no matter how above or below average they might be.  Steve Jobs was brilliant, way beyond extraordinary, and yet for all he accomplished in this world, I'd bet you money that his wife and children will remember him tenderly for the kind of father and husband he was, and for the loving way he treated them...not for his iPad or Apple.

The merits of being ordinary are overlooked, most often admittedly by myself.  When I think of my greatest wish for each member of my family, it is not for success, for terrific careers, or for monetary wealth.  No, what I wish most for each of our children, and for Dominick and I as well, is knowing firmly that we are loved, I wish that we all will never, ever feel alone in a world that can be harsh and so unkind at times.  I would wish for us to find little ways here and there to consistently make a difference, even if it isn't flashy or showy...but to always be reminded that true peace and joy come from reaching out to others and not being self-absorbed. I would hope we could instill the fact that one person can make a huge difference even if we don't always know it at the time.

Funny, in all seriousness, while I don't want our kids to suffer real poverty, I think part of me recognizes the incredible value of doing without and I would even wish for them times of being unable to get what they want, so they can learn how to be very grateful for having what they actually really need.  I think maybe they are already on the road to that understanding.

So in a world where it seems everyone absolutely must make their mark on the world, be #1 at something, or stand out from the crowd in order to be noticed, I am declaring a rebellion!  Ordinary people shine in their own very ordinary way, and when I find myself wondering if we are simply "settling" for less than what could be if we only pushed harder, worked harder or scrambled harder, I will remind myself of the above quote, remembering that the world really doesn't need more successful people but stronger ordinary folks just like us who take pride in their very ordinariness.  After all, being successfully ordinary is also hard work!!


Anonymous said...

Sorry, Cindy. I find you anything but ordinary. I know of no one who would choose to do what you and Dominick have done in bringing that particular group of five into your family -- and done it with such beauty and grace .... and success!!!!
However, I can appreciate what you're saying, in that the things that often get labeled as success aren't the things I think matter. As with you, what I think matters is the ways we find to love others, welcome them, help them find wholeness, help them know that they matter.
Thank you for all you do and all you share and for simply being beautiful you!
Love, blessings, and shalom!

giuliatta said...

I don't want to be extraordinary, I don't want to be ordinary, I want to be myself.

Extraordinary is sometimes a poisoned gift.
I chose to fight and make a law change in my country. It was a straight forward decision, it was all seen : or I was whining all the time about this law, or I was rolling up my sleeves and starting to fight. The choice was somehow easy and straight forward made.
I didn't decide it to be extraordinary, I decided it because I felt that it was the only right thing to do : the way the law is in place creates more problems than it solves, so let fight to make it change in order to solve the problem.
I decided without thinking much about the load of work it needs, without thinking much about the great deal of stress, without thinking much about the odds it would not work. I didn't think about the worrisomeness of the days I wondered how will the work proceed without me, whereas I was staying in bed during a month and a half because of a pericarditis, staying in bed because otherwise, I risked a heart failure for the rest of my life (I was 24).
I had and still have to compose with jealousy and gossip, persons left from my life and I left some others because I had no energy to manage their jealousy and gossip.
I didn't expect to be left without the medical care I need because the physician does not stand to see me having results without any specialized charity (we are short of specialists for adults with my condition, so this specialist took profit of the shortage to believe she can do whatever she wants with her patients). I didn't expect to know that that physician could breach medical confidentiality in order to try to make the project fail because she cannot stand seeing me having the results I already had.
I didn't know by what miracle my health didn't collapse from all that poison.

It is still extraordinary in other people's eyes, but for me, it is such an ordinary life.
I still need help from my family to accept it as my ordinary life, my life and not someone else's life.
I also can rely on my GP (General Practitioner) and her extraordinary way to love her patients, my friends I wish I could help them more than I am currently able to do.

Anonymous said...

Ordinary, the LaJoys? NOT!

That said, most of us do qualify as ordinary, yet when we get to know each other more than surface day-to-day interchanges, we find how extraordinary people are. You excel in love and modeling love (among other wonderful qualities). Someone's smile, another's humor, a third's work with the elderly or the children or with a cause, another's homemaking skills.

Maybe unique is another word. One of the things I strive for, when I am awake to life, is living more consciously. Taking note of my surroundings, the people and their lives, the air, the water in my glass, the unique AND the miracle of the ordinary. One (of the many) things I admire about you, Cindy, is that you live a very conscious life, and you share the quality of your thoughts and love.

I salute the ordinary and extraordinary in you, and in each of us.

Safe trip. We'll be glad to have you back.

Anonymous said...

I can relate, as I am nothing if not ordinary, too! And I also agree that God works with the ordinary...and in fact, the underdogs. Those are the ones He asks us to help, though we should be an example to any extraordinary people we meet along the way, too. The Pharisees thought themselves "successful" in their religious piety, yet Christ called them down many times. It's the widows, the orphans, the sick and the poor, the person laying along the side of the road that God asks us love and serve.

I think "unique" is a word we should use for both ends (and the middle) of the human spectrum. Everyone created by God for the purpose of having a relationship with Him. Whatever it takes to love every one. That's what He asks of all of us "ordinary" people.

Because what we do (either give birth to, or adopt kids and love them to their best) seems "ordinary" to us, we can forget that being a mom is nothing short of "extraordinary"! To commit our lives to our family is actually a super-human thing to do. By God's grace, we can devote ourselves to someone other than ourselves. And that goes for mothers everywhere!

In this world and our particular culture of selfishness and self-promotion, who else but a mom would sit on a cushion in the bathroom (back against cold, hard ceramics) to type so as not to disturb their family?

Nancy in the Midwest

Writer200 said...

You know what - I wouldn't trade being "ordinary" for anything in the world. It's enough for me.