Ordinary things

It is strange how different things that seem unrelated often come together around the same time and get us thinking about something or other, quite specific, often profound. I was struck by recently shared quotes, like Mother Teresa’s, to do with our undertaking little things. These frequently have a far wider impact than we might imagine at the time, just as a stone thrown into a still lake will create many ripples. I was then made aware of the thought that when we come to the ends of our lives it is often those little, inconsequential at the time, things that will have made the greatest difference on the lives of others rather than our “great” achievements.

Then there was a thought arising from my earlier days as a community activist, when I helped compile a mental health directory. One of my associates insisted that given the intended audience, it needed to be made ordinary. Lastly, there is my coming under conviction that rather than entertaining delusions of grandeur, waxing lyrical with my words of wisdom and trying to do something big and spectacular, I would be best employed doing all the ordinary things I might so easily find excuses not doing, to do with sorting out my affairs, paying attention to detail and taking care of my responsibilities, being a good husband, father, neighbor, member of my community etc., all of which brings me to a funeral that I attended earlier in the week.

The funeral was that of Len Jordan. I didn’t know Len that well but well enough to want to pay my respects. I first met Len a few years back when I went out with him, street pastoring, which I recall as a positive experience as we engaged with many from Southend’s night life, and later helping the homeless and folk on the edge of society, with the night shelters and open house. My impression, and one which others were later to confirm and concur, was this was a gentle giant, a practical person keen to help, a true Christian gentleman.

It was a privilege to be among others also paying their respects and sharing in their memories. As often is the case, one gets to learn things about the more distant past that helps us figure out something of the more recent past. I found out, for example, that Len was particularly devoted to his not long ago departed wife and his family, that he was quite adept as a hard worker that didn’t like to take breaks, that in his younger days he was a wheeler dealer and he had come to a very real Christian faith quite late in life.

One thing that particularly impressed me was that he was aware he was soon going to die (he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness) and wanted to tie up his affairs and say his good byes in a befitting manner. One rather novel (these days) ways he found to do this was to write letters to those who were closest to him (even though writing wasn’t his forte, as he was dyslexic), say his goodbyes (I was with Street Pastors and Open House when he did just that) and even organize his own funeral. Some who were recipients of these letters shared some of the thoughtful and positive content and commented on how touched they had been to have received these.

So back to the title, my thought for the day is to cherish the little, inconsequential things, value and work on the relationships you have, view life as a gift and focus on the positives, and do not to despise the ordinary things of life, for as my wise saying of the day says “excellence is about doing ordinary things extraordinarily well” and, as I reminded my son as he was growing up, he needed always to strive for excellence. A question is asked in the Bible: “For who hath despised the day of small things?” Zechariah 4:10, and to do so would be to lose out. As for Len, I want to say thank you for being with us and for the memories. Now rest in peace.

 

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