Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Greatness Among Us

by Faith St. Clair

After a long two-mile sweat on the treadmill, I headed for the gym showers and ran into Stephenie Meyer (author of Twilight and New Moon). We chatted for a couple of minutes and then parted ways – me to the showers, her to the treadmill. I walked away thinking, there’s a famous author running alongside ordinary people and they don’t even know it! I then wondered what other people are in our midst in whom we have no notion of their greatness.

I looked around and noticed Hal, the 85-year old war veteran who comes to the gym every day, makes his way up the stairs and walks the treadmill for five miles at an incline. He has beat advanced stages of prostrate cancer with all-natural foods and dedicated exercise. He is a hero to me in more ways than one. I think he’s pretty great.

I then see Bill. He probably ranks among the “obese” (don’t we all) and struggles with gout in his legs. Without fail, however, he gets out of bed, goes to the gym despite excruciating pain in every step, does water aerobics and heads up the laughter and conversations of the group. I wouldn’t have the fortitude. I think he is great.

Carol lost her young and only daughter to an accident last year. She just lost her job and wonders where to go next in life. Yet she is the first to offer a cheery “Good morning!” She makes me feel great – she is great.

Mr. Nevin lost his wife eight years ago. After 47 years of marriage, he is not lost, he finds joy - joy in those around him. He plans outings with friends, he works in his yard, he enters in walking-for-a-cause events and when he does find himself alone, he reads incessantly and shares with everyone he meets, what he has learned. His love of life and people are great.

Sheila is great. She managed to get off four kids to school this morning with made lunches, a full breakfast, clean teeth and brushed hair – all accompanied by nothing more than a calming count to ten and a whisper, “I love you; have a great day.” That’s awesome!

Tattooed Carl strenuously exercises in order to abate the nicotine fits that haunt him as he quits smoking. I am amazed! I can’t even quit sugar! He is great.

Terri, despite her life-long weight issues and limits of self-esteem, can’t say two words without making me laugh. Her humor and positive outlooks elevate me. She is great!

Sue has watched her son move in and out and through again with trouble, but she looks for ways to help him on a daily basis. Her love is unconditional. She doesn’t enable him, but rather looks for ways to lift him by providing light in his life. Her love and patience are great.

Linda can’t work anymore due to numerous neurological disorders, yet daily she is in service of others. Not only her own family, but those she has adopted – which is just about every body she has met. She sews for Christmas year-round, and at every Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, 4th of July, Groundhog Day, Tuesday, Isn’t-it-a-beautiful-day Day……there is a package on my doorstep for either me or my girls. Her kindnesses are great.

Elizabeth has been in bed for 20 years with every disease and medical uncertainty that is known and guessed among mankind. But she calls me when she finds something she thinks I’ll like or need in a catalog and she’ll order it for me. She’ll encourage me to put one foot in front of another on days where it seems I can’t (figuratively) and even though she knows she can’t (literally). She is great.

I think about the Jeannette Walls (author of her true-life childhood story, “The Glass Castle”) that are walking amongst us - those who have struggled with the unimaginable in their lives and have blossomed despite an overload of too much fertilizer thrust upon them. They are beyond great and I know they walk along side of me.

I think about Katherine Hannigan’s character, Ida B, and wonder if there is an angry nine-year-old in our path who we’d like to slap with the love of Jesus in our heart, but who, unbeknown to us, is just trying to suppress her grief of having a dying mother. Her defense mechanisms match her great love for her mother. She is great.

I don’t really know all of the people I’ve mentioned above. Some names I know, some circumstances I know, but some are just imagined. What I do know, however, is that there truly are great people all around us. We meet people we like, people we think we wouldn’t want to associate with, people older than us, people that offend us, or people that are disadvantaged, but all in all, they are ordinary great people with great stories, great triumphs and great souls. I like walking amongst the great people of this world!

3 comments:

  1. Yes! Faith, you have it right. I used to fantasize that after I became rich and famous, and people were asking me to travel great distances to speak, I'd stand in front of this wide audience and tell them about the heroes among them that they haven't even noticed, that they should be having them speak instead of me. That's a speech I never got to give, obviously, but it would have been wonderful, powerful, moving, tear-jerking, even. However, I think you'd do it better. When I finally get rich and famous and the call comes, I'll refer them to you. Just don't sit by your phone waiting.

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  2. You made me stop and think and then decide to stop whining about my situation...At least for tonight.
    Betsy

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  3. Thanks, Faith. You've pointed out the courage in "everyman's" story and given me pause for thought.

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