As a writer, my primary focus is on ordinary life and ordinary people, because for all that politicians, writers, seminar speakers, and the movie industry talk about real, regular human beings, they don’t get it.
I’ve always enjoyed Hollywood’s interpretation of life in a small town — you know, where the Sheriff has drinks at the only bar with the one and only doctor, who is sleeping with the veterinarian because she’s the only unmarried woman under 30 in the place. Everybody knows everybody else, and except for a series of random murders by a resident psychopath who has gone undetected for 10 years, life is bucolic and friendly.
Ordinary people are quirky and cute, but a little dumb and ineffectual. They make a great foil for the smart, savvy, cosmopolitan characters from the big city. Real people — important people — make a lot of money, drive nice cars, live in sumptuous apartments, and converse in one-liners.
Outside of the movie world, important people are harder to recognize,
because they generally don’t mesh incredible good looks with massive amounts of money; they just wear suits and look powerful. But the message for the ordinary person is the same — you’re quirky and cute, but a little dumb and ineffectual. You’re not particularly necessary or important, and when it comes to actually helping other people on the planet, you don’t have resources necessary to fund massive vaccination campaigns, “donate” technological equipment to schools, or set up huge agrarian farms with the ultimate purpose of feeding the world by increasing the supply of genetically modified food.
You’re one person, one family, with an ordinary life and an ordinary income, so there is very little that you can do to make an actual impact on the world.
Don’t you bet on it.
Many charities and benevolent institutions are funded on the backs of ordinary people, dependent upon $10 here, $50 there, and when enough contributions come in from unimportant, ordinary people, a business is born. Your contribution, no matter how small, is worth something, and because it’s worth something, it behooves you to make sure that you’re giving it to the right place.
One overlooked option is looking around where we are, and helping how we can right here, right now. We all know of people who are hurting — emotionally, economically, physically — and given that we all have good brains from our Creator, we can find a means to encourage them. It doesn’t have to be big — it just has to be something.
When you give a single mom you know $35 to go toward the electric bill, you’re making a real impact on a real life, and you don’t have to feel like a loser because you don’t have a corporate charitable fund. When you write a card to a family who was in the newspaper because their baby has leukemia, a $10 gift certificate to a grocery store can buy a treat that makes a dismal evening a little brighter.
This world is made up of billions of ordinary people. Some of them
have enough to eat, indoor plumbing with potable water, a roof over their heads, and decent clothes; many, many others do not. But all of us, one by one with the resources we have been given, have the ability to help somebody else who has fewer things, and more pain, than we have. We can buy a cup of coffee for a homeless person; we can visit a forgotten resident in a nursing home; we can write a note to someone who is lonely; we can actually listen to a child when she is talking.
And our sheer power is our ordinariness. Because we’re not wildly rich and powerful, we don’t fool ourselves into thinking that we are more than we are: human beings, who live a certain number of years on this planet, and then die. What will we do with the time that we have been given?