Our lives are folded into the pages of history, hidden by the headlines and disappearing as things do before anyone actually realizes. Upstaged by influencers of all sorts, our lives are threaded into the background of every historical tapestry with the patience that belongs to those who lack power and exercise faith, trust in simplicity and practice truthfulness. There are grand edifices, cathedrals and basilicas that are testimony to artists and their patrons and speak across centuries of belief. And behind that grandeur is the simplicity of ordinary lives given to a greater cause; they are nameless, image-less, virtually invisible. But for their dedication, the roles shouldered or thrust upon them, these places could not exist. And the world will not name or remember them yet we know, we see and we live with, their legacy.
Even in this time of social media, the pattern is perpetuated. And the greater truths of what really matters falls to the rhythms of clever TikToks and sharp-edged Instagrams. New forms of etiquette are emerging through its constant navigation. And yet it seems to successfully obscure the ordinary reality of daily human life and experience, the power of human hearts and the invaluable gift of every life. We have mastered the art of paralyzing one another with discrimination, blaming institutions and businesses with angry rebuttals and drinking cynicism and malfeasance as sustenance. We have empowered so many to consider self first, to aspire to so much in careers and finances. We have so encouraged individuation and self-awareness among our young that we have lost that sense of the whole and what it means to be part of something greater than self. We have lost the art of self-sacrifice, of daring to invest in meaningful conversation with suspended judgement, of being able to say, “I can do this for someone else’s benefit rather than my own.”
We have lost sight of the reality that we, the extremely ordinary souls who will never garner accolades or discover ourselves in places of power, we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. It is the very simplicity of who we are and what we are about that actually makes that possible. Our daily choices, actions and decisions define that light and give taste to that salt. Today’s first reading from Isaiah states,
“Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…”
“You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Even without thousands of followers, there is so much more to us than we actually realize. We are each more than what it seems, and the choices and decisions are ours. We have the responsibility to make this the connection that matters and to trust that ordinary, simple lives are great gifts to be shared and treasured.