One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
–Elbert Hubbard, American author and publisher (1856-1915)
What is the difference between an ordinary person and someone who is extraordinary? It certainly isn’t their biology. Certainly some are stronger and more coordinated than others, but that isn’t enough. Certainly some are smarter than others, but again, that alone falls short. It has to do with the spirit of the person… and their character.
Extraordinary people are ordinary in many ways, but they have faith in God and in what is good and right. They have moral courage to stand up for what they believe in. They show perseverance, carrying on where someone else might give up. They are willing to take a risk (or a hit) for some greater good. They see an opportunity and they seize it. They see a need and they meet it. They dream a dream and they put it to action. It takes the daily work of authenticity and tenacity; being your very best self every single day and doing what must be done each and every one of those days.
As I watched the state funeral for Former President George H. W. Bush that was held on Wednesday, I was struck by what an extraordinary man he was. I was especially touched by how he stuck by his friend through thick and thin, even when his friend had supported the other candidate. I was moved by his decision to do what was political suicide (a real punch in the gut, as he had described it) but was the right thing for the good of the country. The story was told that the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 was the catalyst for this patriot. That day he decided to enlist on his 18th birthday, the minute he was eligible, and he did. He certainly wasn’t perfect, but he lived a life of significance. That matters. Being perfect doesn’t.
So how do you tell what is worthwhile and will lead a person toward living a life of significance? What scripture passage is a guide for living an extraordinary life? I’d look to the Great Commandment if I were you. Jesus clearly identifies it as the most important thing… When asked by a Pharisee, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40, NRSV) These two will not lead you astray. Love God and love your neighbor (using Jesus’s definition of neighbor… ) and you will choose wisely. Love what God loves. Love who God loves and you will know what to do.
You don’t have to have had a brush with death at the age of 20 to make the decision that you must live a life of significance, making every day count. You can make that decision today, with whatever life experiences you have had. You can be extraordinary too…an ordinary person who is willing to do and be “a little extra.”
Blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.