Ordinary Things

From For One More Day by Mitch Albom. The narrator had a 10 year career in minor league baseball:

“I hate my job,” I said.
“Well…” Miss Thelma shrugged. “Sometimes that happens. Cain’t be much worse than scrubbin’ your bathtub, can it?” She grinned. “You do what you gotta do to hold your family together. Ain’t that right, Posey?”
I watched them finish their routine. I thought about how many years Miss Thelma must have run vaccums or scrubbed tubs to feed her kids; how many shampoos or dye jobs my mother must have done to feed us. And me? I got to play a game for ten years–and I wanted twenty. I felt suddenly ashamed.
“What’s wrong with that job you got anyhow?” Miss Thelma said.
I pictured the sales office, the steel desks, the dim, fluorescent lights.
“I didn’t want to be ordinary.” I mumbled.

The “didn’t want to be ordinary” really hit home. Most of my life circles ordinary things, and I sometimes complain about that. I often feel the desire to be extraordinary, special. I write my blog and give presentations. Sometimes I feel that doing these things is the adult equivalent of the four year old child who shouts “Watch me!” while slipping down the slide.

I don’t want to be ordinary because ordinary feel like a synonym for boring. Only that isn’t true. The world is full of ordinary things that are amazing. Snow is everywhere. We stomp through it, slide on it, shovel it, and curse it. It blankets my yard right now. But if I get down close, I discover that this ordinary thing is not a single thing at all. It arrives as beautiful crystalline shapes. It transforms when it lands. It can be packed into snowballs, made into sculptures, or tracked into the house. It is completely ordinary and also amazing.

I am in favor of savoring the ordinary. Not because it lowers expectations and makes life easier, but because so much of what we consider ordinary is actually special. Terry Pratchett brilliantly pointed out that the most amazing capability that humanity possesses is the ability to be bored. Without it we would all sit around being perpetually stunned by the world we live in.

This is what Mitch Albom’s quote does for me. It reminds me that a life spent in the ordinary pursuit of a worthwhile goal will not be wasted. My efforts at house cleaning, or clothes washing, or package shipping, are not wasted. They each contribute to the benefit of our family. Being notable may or may not happen to anyone in life. What really matters is usually ordinary.