The Power of the Ordinary

William (Bill) - Rensselaer, New York
Entered on March 8, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65

This I Believe

I recently listened to a segment of this program in which the commentator reviewed the power of the absurd in his life. As his essay concluded, the program announcer suggested listeners to hear his work at www.NPR.org as well as others “… from the exceptional people who have contributed to this series.”

My immediate, visceral, response was: what about the ordinary people? I believe in the power of the ordinary.

As I write this I think of any number of people, ordinary people, I have known who have profoundly influenced who I am and what I value.

My father was, and is, one such ordinary man. He was born into a subsistence farm family on the northern border of the United States in the early twentieth century. He married. He raised five children. He fought, as he described it, “the battle of the occupation” at the end of World War II. He worked; became a journeyman electrician, rank and file member of the IBEW. He attended his small town Methodist church. He gave of his time to church activities and to his neighbors. He voted. He spoke his mind. He was, and is, a very ordinary man whose children are all now also ordinary adults who do the work they find in front of them and contribute to their communities where they can.

As I write this, I am observing three ordinary people as they sit for a voluntary professional examination which will do no more and no less than establish they are as competent as hundreds of others who have taken the same exam since its inception. There is nothing exceptional in this. Three ordinary people working daily to improve themselves, what they do and what they represent.

At this same moment another ordinary man I know lies nearby in a local hospital under treatment for unremarkable ailments he did nothing unusual to contract. Like many ordinary men and women in similar circumstances he would rather this day, like most days, report to his job, do the work assigned him, and return tomorrow to do it again. Instead, today or very soon, he will face a choice of treatments which will mean either he dies of cancer, dies by heart failure, or both. He will, if I know him, analyze his options, make a choice, and live out his days without bitterness or self-pity like he has lived most every day since his initial diagnosis of cancer several years ago.

These are truly ordinary people. People like you and me who, as the character George Bailey says in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life:

“… do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community”.

I believe in the power, the grace, the miracle of the ordinary.