I have always been an idealist. From a very young age, I wanted to do something great to change the world. I wanted to be a missionary to Africa and help the destitute. Or be a teacher in a disadvantaged area. Somehow, I would show the children that they are loved and inspire them to great things. I wanted to make a difference in this world, but I really didn’t know how. What I didn’t realize at the time was that for most people, it is not extraordinary acts that we are called. It is actually our simple, ordinary, daily duties and interactions with others, done with great love and intention, that makes our lives extraordinary and through which we change the world. It is in these ordinary things that our lives become sacred.
“Do ordinary things, with extraordinary love”. This what Saint Therese of Lisieux and Saint Teresa of Calcutta have always said! As is often the case, I knew this is my head, yet, it took some time to really sink into my heart. This does not mean that someday we won’t do extraordinary things. And perhaps even now, in the ordinary things that you and I do every day, it makes an extraordinary difference in someone else’s life.
I was always struck by how Mother Theresa would talk about doing ordinary things, yet it seemed to me that she had accomplished so many extraordinary things in her life! Yet, it started with small little ordinary tasks. Like writing letters in the mud in the slums of India to teach the street children to read, or cleaning out bathroom stalls of the house, or bathing a dying person and washing their wounds filled with maggots. All these simple, ordinary, sometimes unpleasant parts of life, but they were done with great heart-with great love. They were done with her seeing Jesus in the person she was serving and with a vision that this is what she was called to do. This is the same for us. When you brush your children’s teeth or snuggle with them in your lap. When you clean those dishes or do the laundry for you and your family. When you get up and rush to work or deal with all that burdensome paperwork. You are participating in the very ordinary duties of life that may not be all that glamorous but are sacred.
This all sounds great, but in the midst of these ordinary things that we do, it may not feel all that sacred. We may even screw up. Says the woman who just lost her temper last night struggling to brush an uncooperative child’s teeth. Yet, even in those moments, I can see the grace of God as I apologize to my child, and tell him that I should have taken a deep breath instead of yelling at him when I was frustrated. It may seem like an ordinary thing, but I have faith that those ordinary moments are sacred and are making my life extraordinary. I hope you do you too.
“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”Saint Teresa of Calcutta