No ordinary people

Extraordinary everyday people surround The Immigrants statue, Battery Park, New York City, May 2007.

Extraordinary everyday people surround The Immigrants statue,
Battery Park, New York City, May 2007.

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” C. S. Lewis

My favorite author C. S. Lewis wrote many passages that touch my heart and open my mind, but none is more sobering and remarkable to me than the text that includes the quote above.  Think about it: every person you encounter today is more unique, more important and more eternal than any non-human part of your life.

It’s hard for us to realize this, surrounded as we are with so many appealing gadgets, to say nothing of the aspects of nature that are far more attractive and less irritating than some of the people we meet.  But I really think Lewis hit the nail on the head here.  Of everything in this world that matters, people matter most, and we forget that at our own peril.

I think Fred Rogers understood that.  So did a lot of other remarkable people I’ve known.  With their help, I hope I’m beginning to understand it, too.

One year ago today

Everybody can be great

31 Comments

  1. HarryS

    Reminds me me of the proposition that we are not humans on a spiritual journey but spirits on a human journey.

    • Harry, that’s an important distinction, I think, and one we tend to get confused about, but I do believe it’s true. I love the things Lewis has written about the spiritual being stronger and more real than the physical, and how we tend to confuse that.

  2. All are one and one is all. All were created the same but the work assigned to each one makes them special and extraordinary.

    • I love the way Mr. Rogers ends each of his “visits” with the reminder “There is only one person in the world exactly like you.” To me, this also means that each person we meet has something to give us that only they can give. A wonderful thought!

      • Every person contributes to the society in a different manner, may it be less or more but contribution is important. Thank you.

        • You’re welcome! And thanks for your contributions here! 🙂

  3. I too love Lewis. Nice blog you attached there. I will have to look in more detail one day. I wanted to tell you yesterday, I am only up because I must go to work but it is nice to start my day with God’s glory. Makes me feel less sorry for myself. 🙂 Love ya. Have a great day. I will try to remember this section from Lewis with each patient I counsel today.

    • Good luck today with the reality of living out these words. That is really where it counts, and oh so hard to do sometimes. I get so impatient with people, particularly if I think they are being impatient with me first! 🙂 Where I most need to remember this is when I start to use colorfully insulting labels for people I see on the road who are driving in dangerous or rude ways. But I also need to remember it with those I love the most. I have a long ways to go!

  4. raynard

    Julia I can admit this to you. Me being from NYC, it’s been over 20 years since I’ve been to Manhattan.Just visited downtown Brooklyn 2 months ago and seen the Barclay’s Center where the basketball team , Brooklyn Nets play.( last time I was there is was a old railroad yard). I digress.. The most humbling and touching thing I’ve seen in the last few years was son my trip to D.C . It was the Vietnam Memorial. A a veteran it brought tears to my eyes. I was also in awe when I visited the statue of liberty. Somewhere on my “bucklist next to”Ringling Brothers& Barnum Bailey Circus is visiting “Ground Zero Memorial.” Keep me in your prayers as the start of another snowstorm, I have to go to work & “pull a all nighter”..( Might be a good time for me to”learn how to make a snow angel lol) be blessed

    • Raynard, the first time I saw the Vietnam Memorial I was surprised at how impressive it is. For years before I saw it, I had read about it and thought it sounded rather nondescript and dull. I think it has something to do with the impact of all those names; it really brings home the reality of how many people died. Did you visit the WW II and Korean War monuments as well? I think they are equally well done. I will pray for you to have a safe time with this latest weather challenge. It looks so beautiful here with the snow falling, but I would hate to be out in it!

  5. Michael

    Reminds me of Gandhi quote,” If you do not meet God in the next person you encounter you might as well give up.”

    • Yes, when I read this quote I thought that perhaps that’s why some people give up on the idea of God; if one believes we’re all just a cosmic accident, maybe that’s a way of escaping “the weight of glory” so incisively described by Lewis. It’s easy for us to believe in theory that each person is created by God in God’s image. What is harder is treating people with the level of respect that necessarily follows on such a belief.

  6. MaryAnn

    What a thought-provoking piece of text! I must read again & again to ponder & absorb it.
    Thank you for your wonderful input in my life!

    • You’re welcome! I’m glad you like it. I’ve never seen you treat anyone as “ordinary” – you seem to live out the idea that each person is special.

      • MaryAnn

        Methinks you offer more credit than due; but I appreciate your observation. It is very easy to treat people such as you & your family as special, because of the love you display!

        • Thank you! 🙂 You have always been generous with us.

  7. Simple, but so powerful and beautiful. “Of everything in this world that matters, people matter most, and we forget that at our own peril.” Thanks for your writing. It’s lovely.

    • Kourtney, thanks so much for that kind compliment! I really appreciate it, and I’m so happy to have you visit here and join us in discussion.

  8. Jenelle

    This post comes at a time where the Spirit is showing me how much I need other people in my life. To stop being so independent and let other humans in. We are a relational race and there are strength in numbers. Thank you so much, Julia!

    • You’re welcome, Jenelle! You have been a welcome and active part of our community here, and I know you will add a wonderful touch wherever you go. I am happy you found the post helpful.

  9. Sheila

    Julia, years ago my father-in-law commented that people usually warm when called by name. He was referring to those with name tags, often performing less than glamorous jobs. I watched his personal kindness many times. Today, checking out at the grocery store, it was only fitting that I would say, “How are you, Colleen?” and think of Dad! Your post today seemed to convey that simple kindness to others is so important.

    • Sheila, Matt was sort of like Raymond (in Rain Man) in the way he would always call people by their names that he saw on their name tags. For some reason I was always afraid this would seem disrespectful (because they were adults and he was a little kid) so I discouraged it, but now I miss it. I seldom think of that type of courtesy but whenever I do, it feels so much nicer than “sir” or “ma’am.” When we have worked at the homeless shelter my favorite job is to check the guests in and that way I have to ask their names for the sign-in; it feels easier to call them by name after that and it’s way more friendly, I think. Thanks for reminding us of an easy way to show people we value them as individuals. Hope you are having a good week!

  10. merry

    I agree with CS Lewis…there are no ordinary people. “We are remarkable and wonderfully made…” (PS. 139:14)

    • Yes Merry, and the more people I “meet” online, the more I’m amazed at how unique each one of us is. So many witty, wise, creative, thoughtful and kind people out there! I’m so thankful to have met you here, and I appreciate your presence!

  11. Nice post, Julia. I’m a big Fred Rogers fan. He was a remarkable, kind-hearted and wise man.

    • We have old VHS tapes of many of his shows, and it is so relaxing to watch them. I really appreciate the way he looks into the camera when he talks to his television “friend” (you will notice he always uses the singular, never the ubiquitous “boys and girls” that people who parody him often say). He knew long ago that what most kids needed was “face time” with a calm and unhurried adult, talking as if one-on-one. I did a post sometime last year with a wonderful autotune montage of him that PBS produced about “the garden of your mind” – I will be linking to it eventually. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to catch it when it comes up.

      • I think I know the one you mean. It’s been on Facebook once or twice.

        You’ve described him well. I always loved his calm voice, his intelligence, and the fact that he never talks down to people.

  12. Gee, thanks for elaborating on the quote which I though I had a feeling for until I went to the link of the entire passage. I read it, but it went way over my head. Maybe my brain as melted in this Maui sunshine 😀

    I liked what Sheila conveyed in her message above. It doesn’t take much effort to be warm and genuine when you think about it. I also like the message Henry S has left for you. When I include giving of spirit, wealth or time in the day (which I hope I do daily) , it seems tomorrow holds more promise.

    • Boomdee, Lewis is really deep and this is one of his more profound passages; every time I read it I discover something new in it. It is definitely hard to grasp on first or second or third reading. But you probably intuited the overall message from just the brief quote. I think he’s reminding Christians (who believe that people’s souls live eternally) that such a belief comes with a grave responsibility to treat each person with respect, never with derision or apathy. He reminds us that we can be, and often are, influential in helping people to follow a path to life or destruction, just by how we behave toward each other every day. It’s quite a challenge to live up to, but one I find inspiring. And yes, we can exercise this influence in the smallest ways. When it comes to the heart, even the small gestures can make a big difference for good in someone’s life.

  13. We are too quick to criticize and judge others. On certain days I feel my head stuffed with too many negative remarks I hear from people around me. Today was one such day for me. Trying to relax with some music here.
    Interesting sculpture.

    • Bindu, sometimes I get so weary of all the negative talk that seems to go on everywhere. It makes me want to blow a loud whistle and scream “TIMEOUT!” Even worse, I find myself contributing to it when I go on about frustrations of the day. I hope your music helped to turn your day around. It’s really hard to make it through those negative days without exhaustion. I wish we could all have a rule that we had to say at least 5 positive, uplifting or grateful thing for every negative or even neutral thing we say. (I know a lot of people who say their negative talk isn’t negative, that’s why I say “neutral” too.) 🙂

      The statue is really interesting. It’s located near the waterfront within sight of the Statue of Liberty, so I think it’s meant to be a sort of complement to the poem by Emma Lazarus. I hope you will have a lovely and restful weekend!

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