Many years ago I grew to know and love a man of extraordinary achievements, but looking at him you would never have guessed. The circumstances of his birth and early childhood had left him with daunting personal challenges. He suffered from brain damage at birth. As a child he lived with an alcoholic stepfather in mean, penniless conditions. He faltered in public school. He was clumsy with his body. He spoke with a slur. His handwriting drifted diagonally across the page. He reversed numbers, letters and words. He was tone deaf, colour blind and had almost no sense of smell. Despite these disabilities, in his lifetime he went far. He overcame, and then, in turn, dedicated himself to help others with their challenges. Had the circumstances of his life played differently he might’ve become someone famous, a household name to us all. In fact, I used to shake my head, wondering how notoriety managed to pass him over.
But I don’t shake my head anymore. Because over time I learned that our human community is filled with people like him. Many people of no particular status or renown have met their personal challenges with courage and honesty, and then went beyond themselves to help others do the same. Against the odds they have met the challenge to be fully human by being fully alive to, and for, others.
Cast your eye about. There is someone near who has quietly made our lives better, without fanfare, statues, or the brilliant lights. They live just down the street. They walk on the same sidewalk and eat at the same café. They live in an average home and wear average clothing. But they are more than average, because they do goodness. They do it in ways that are quiet and unpretentious, not out of false humility, but because they are too busy and too happy being fully human to be concerned for distinction.
In this high season of summer while we celebrate the cornucopia of Nature’s food for us, let us also celebrate the abundance of human kindness and good!