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

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. WOW.
    Thank you for this post. I read The Weight of Glory so long ago that I needed to be reminded.

    • It’s a work that bears many repeat readings, each of which brings new insight– like digging deeper and deeper and finding diamonds all the way down.

      • I agree; reading C. S. Lewis’work is like finding treasure.
        I went to look for my book (which contains several of his works and is of substantial size and hard to misplace) and couldn’t find it. At last I saw it by Patrick’s bed. He’s been reading it at night, so it may be a while until I get to read that one again, unless I borrow it from the library!

        • Wish you were here. I have so many volumes and anthologies of Lewis that I could probably outfit a small class, although not with the same work(s). But amazingly, I still don’t have a comprehensive collection of all that he wrote. He was astoundingly prolific as a writer, and perhaps half of what he ever wrote was personal, one-on-one correspondence, of which much (but not all) is extant.

  2. mike c

    I sent you that article about Lewis and how his adopted ? mother kept him grounded in every day events. He did most of the shopping for the household and also helped in the cooking, cleaning and washing. He did not complain- as some do- and his life was enriched in many ways.
    I listened to a good part of the M.L. Celebration broadcast here on Channel 5. Berniece KIng gave a long and impassioned message. She spoke of non-violence,but her tone is so very angry. Very angry. It was a prophetic message about keeping her father’s dream alive. There were some wonderful readings from young persons and comments from international King centers for nonviolence like the one in Australia. The service was over three hours long- i made the first hour.
    Yes if the Christain message is true about resurrection then we are in a sense immortal and this time here- on this spinning rock, is a drop in the bucket.

    • Mike, Lewis’s relationship with his wartime buddy’s mother was complicated and he was indeed her caregiver for many years during her final decades of life. By all accounts she was an exceedingly difficult woman. Most scholars believe that she and Lewis were lovers for a very brief time in his youth, and her daughter feels that there was no doubt this was the case. In other words, she was a bit more of a Mrs. Robinson than a mother substitute, although she was a little of both.(The son was killed in the war after he and Lewis made a mutual vow to care for each other’s surviving parent if one was killed; Lewis narrowly survived grave injury himself.) Be that as it may, Lewis ended up as a longsuffering caregiver for many of his years, first of Mrs. Moore (Paddy’s mother), then of his dying wife and his alcoholic brother Warnie whom he was continually having to rescue in one form or another. This burden of caregiving is one reason I’ve always felt so close to Lewis. Before I was forced to drop my PhD studies to care for Matt, I had considered doing my dissertation on Lewis the Caregiver– I don’t know of anyone who has emphasized the huge role he played in this regard for at least three people. He also financially supported countless others through the fortune that came to him with fame– he never spent much on himself at all. Seeing (and having classes) at his home, The Kilns, was a high point for me. I’d love to go back someday.

  3. Elena

    I love this quote! Thank you for sharing.
    For me it’s not always easy seeing people as extraordinary but I definitely want to improve my attitude in this regard.
    Lewis is indeed a great author.
    I have recently finished his Reflections on the Psalms and it has given me precious insights so I expect that other essays might be as good.
    There is so much of his work that I haven’t read yet and “The Weight of Glory” is one of the book I didn’t even knew about. I am glad that you mentioned this essay.
    Have a good afternoon (hoping that I have guessed what time it is in your part of the world, here it’almost dinner time 😉)

    • Elena, thanks to for your reminder of Reflections on the Psalms. I have that work but I don’t remember if I ever read it. “The Weight of Glory” was an address he gave at Oxford and you can find the entire text here for free. But it also has been published in various collections that include other works, all of which are good. When I took the course at Oxford on Lewis, I learned so much about him despite already knowing a good bit. He was an early advocate against cruelty to animals, for example; as a vocal opponent to vivisection, which was considered essential to medical experimentation by most in the mainstream, he was ahead of his time. We spend an entire day holding classes at The Kilns, his lovely though modest home just outside Oxford that is now a study center for resident scholars. As with many other great people (Fred Rogers comes to mind), the closer you look at Lewis and his life, the more intriguing he gets. Very human, very peculiar, but unbelievably admirable as well.

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