The Ordinary Saves

August 26, 2014

Is it just me, or does everyone else’s newsfeeds read like the world is going to hell? I mean, seriously, the torrent of bad news is so unrelenting that no amount of kitten pictures and feel-good Upworthy videos can hold up against it. I wonder if the ALS ice bucket challenge took off the way it did because the ice water tangibly helps us to feel in the face of numbingly tragic events.

It’s hard to know how to engage the dark realities of what we human beings are capable of doing to one another. Raised in a sheltered religious environment, I am illiterate in cursing, but none of my clean words come close to describing the state of our world. Gratefully, I turn to the words of others, like this dark lament, “Everyone I Know is Brokenhearted,” of modern society as a “shit show” filled with dead children. Because there are dead children, from Gaza to Iraq to the streets of Ferguson. Kids who should be playing and teaching the world how to delight in life. If there ever was an adult who knew how to preserve child-like whimsy, it was Robin Williams, who is also dead.

I get the impulse of those who want to look for hope and light and optimism, because it’s a big bummer to fixate on dead children. But wading through the pain is what will propel us toward rage, like the writer Josh Ellis says, toward a “final fundamental fed-up-ness” with our current situation where we continue to churn out violence, brutality, and death.

I really don’t want to round out this article with a nicely wrapped redemptive bow, because I want us to sit in the uncomfortable tension of living in a traumatized world. However, the wonder of our humanity is our resilience in the face of great trouble. We may struggle to take a breath after suffering massive blows, but eventually we do indeed, breathe. Our easy access to information places an inordinate amount of burden on our psyche, and we must find ways to cope.

I see people coping with reading and writing poetry – speaking beauty into pain. I hear the cries and laments and prayers of those who long to participate in God’s intervention in our struggles. I also found this gem, a cartoonist using her gift to give us some perspective:


This simple illustration is helpful in bringing some much needed humor. Laughter helps us breathe. I think it’s a reminder that the ordinary saves. Our daily lives, the mundane happenings that don’t make the papers, are not only the ways we cope as “life goes on”, but I believe the basic building blocks to address systematic problems in our society.

Appalled by the cruel violence perpetrated by ISIS in Iraq/Syria? Sow peace by living everyday life as if Jesus’ words actually mattered: do not take revenge, love your enemies.

Angry about the pervasive racism and delayed justice for our black friends? Live into reconciliation by learning the art of listening to stories other than what you’re comfortable with, and entering community with those different than yourself.

Devastated by losing yet another brilliant person to depression and suicide? Call up a friend who you know struggles and let them know you care.

James Foley, the American journalist killed by ISIS, sent a dictated letter home to his family which has now been made public. It is hard to imagine a darker place in this world to be than in captivity by cruel militants in a foreign land. The memories he recalls in the letter home consisted of moments like playing games with family, camping, snowboarding; Comedy Clubs, margaritas, chess; nieces and nephews with big personalities, and his loving Grammy. In his words, “the special moments keep me hopeful.” The ordinary deliver us from the darkest of times.

There’s not much we can do to control much of these horrible things going on around the world, but we do have some control over our own daily schedules. Our ordinary lives may not seem to matter much but they are what we have to work with. And we desperately need us to choose right, in this world gone terribly wrong.

May we live our collective ordinary moments with integrity. It’s the least and the most we can do.