A very original query came across my blog: “If Pentecost is the ordinary time, who are the ordinary people? Where are the ordinary people?” An usual question and yet, one will probably all subconsciously ponder at some point in time. Better yet, are we ordinary people or are we, as in our dreams, something extraordinary?
“They are ordinary people, after all. For a time they had entered the world of the newspaper statistic; a world where any measure you took to feel better was temporary, at best, but that is over. This is permanent. It must be.” Judith Guest wrote those lines in her 1976 published novel “Ordinary People”. What began as a short story became a full-length novel when, as Guest explains, “I wanted to explore the anatomy of depression — how it works and why it happens to people; how you can go from being down but able to handle it, to being so down that you don’t even want to handle it, and then taking a radical step with your life — trying to commit suicide — and failing at that, coming back to the world and having to “act normal” when, in fact, you have been forever changed.” Her novel became a motion picture than garnered four Academy Awards in 1980, include the Oscar for Best Picture. Clearly ordinary people interest us.
The website ordinarypeople.ink explains how perhaps none of us is really ordinary. “ How many times have you met a seemingly ordinary person only to find out that they have an amazing story to tell or have started an incredible business or been on an extraordinary journey. When you meet up with friends for an ordinary catch up, don’t you share about that great cafe you’ve found, a shop or product you stumbled on, the types of things you’ve been doing to stay fit and healthy or a vacation you’re about to go on? What might be ordinary to someone could be inspiring to another person. That smoothie you whip up daily may be the recipe another person has been searching for. The party decorations you make by hand may be something another person would spend a fortune on, never knowing how simple it was to do at home. Your staple weeknight dinner recipe and your source for organic produce may be something another family has never heard about. Ordinary People is a celebration and collection of ideas and stories by people like you and me. We share with you our lives and ethos, the things we enjoy or gems that other people have told us about. We also highlight people, small businesses and products which may have begun with an ordinary idea but has turned into someone’s passion. Everyone has a great story to tell and we can’t wait to find what is special about the ordinary and bring it to you.”
We’ve all head the saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” What is that person we see as useless is not useless, not even ordinary? What is they were extraordinary? What is we all were extraordinary and the term “ordinary people” is simply a misnomer? What is we were all something special?
C. S. Lewis did not believe in ordinary people. “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal….Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” IF we are to assume that he is correct, then everyone you pass is a superhero of some sort. Who knew?
In the movie “Ordinary People” tragedy affects a family several times. The oldest son is killed and a younger son falls into depression and substance abuse. Dealing with these things creates a rift in the parents’ marriage. Eventually the parents decide they are stronger apart than together but the rift between father and son is bridged and strong. It is an example of how sometimes the heroic choice is not to put Humpty Dumpty back together again exactly as before but two create a new and stronger self.
There are various facets of society that today are considered useless by others. The homeless are often seen as mentally ill or without merit because of their lifestyle. It may have been inflicted upon them from a variety of circumstances or it might actually be a choice. That homeless person is still a person, a unique creation for which there is no equal. There will never be another entity exactly like that person or persons and although many view them as less than ordinary, they actually are something extraordinary, priceless in their being the only one of their kind.
That neighbor who defies tradition may seem weird but maybe their weirdness is just as example of their being extraordinary. The guy in the store who dresses “funny” or the woman whose hair and/or face is covered may seem different but somewhere else, they would be considered “ordinary” as in “just like everyone else”.
A box of crayons with all the same color inside would not sell as quickly as a box of crayons with different colors. Yet, we sometimes seem to want our world to be bland in its sameness. That gives us a sense of comfort, a sense of knowing what is “ordinary”.
Scientific breakthroughs in DNA have proven that we are all unique. C. S. Lewis lived long before such testing proved his point but he was correct. There are no ordinary people. Decide for yourself whether we are all mortal or not but be honest and accept that we are all unique. Celebrate the usual but also celebrate the extraordinary and have faith in what tomorrow brings. Where are the “ordinary people”? Nowhere and everywhere, my friend.