I have a seemingly insatiable desire to be extraordinary — to help others, to make a difference, to love those who aren’t, to do something. In fact, on more than one occasion I’ve been accused to having a hero complex. This seeps into my faith life, my personal life, my public life — giving me this almost-need to be an extraordinary Catholic, daughter, friend, student, leader, etc. But the thing is, I never actually do anything about it. I mean I do, but not on the scale I feel like I need to in order to actually become extraordinary. I’ve been crippled by the fear of failure, of rejection, of coming up short, of not being answered, and of being silenced. It’s scary! I want so badly to go out and take someone who is hurt and broken under my arm and hold them close enough that nothing can hurt them again. I want so badly to go meet people and be a kind, loving, uplifting presence to them, but I never actually do it. I want so badly to make all A’s, to bring my family closer together, to be the best friend to everyone I love, and to be that student leader that can reach out to anyone and make them feel like they belong. But I’ve found that all of these things have put such pressure on me and made it 10 times harder to grow and work towards these seemingly impossible goals. I think it’s because I’m scared of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and feeling awkward. I’m scared of not knowing what to say, or not knowing what to do when it comes to it, and of not being as effective and accepted as I am when I imagine it.
And I think (hope, ha!) that this is a pretty common thing, especially among college students.
Whenever I think about it recently, though, I’m reminded of all of the times we’re told to be not afraid and to go out anyways — to be a light for the world; to love as fiercely as He loves us; to be patient and kind and welcoming, even in our discomfort; to break down the walls that stand between us and loving our brothers and sisters. I’m reminded of all of the ways we’re shown how through the lives of the saints — especially saints like Mother Teresa, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Pope Saint John Paul II, St. Francis of Assissi, St. Therese of Lisieux, and so many others that I admire and look to in my every day.
Do you have those friends in your life that remind you of saints, or of our responsibility to love as we should? I am so blessed with a few friends in particular, holy men and women, who have genuinely changed and refined my life and faith in the past few years. And one of them in particular, when I was troubled by this intense desire to do something extraordinary with my life and by my apparent fear of actually doing something about it, she just smiled at me and said, “Hannah, you can live an extraordinary life in an ordinary way”. And she was right.
“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.” -Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Not everyone is called to go out to a third world country for long-term service. Not everyone is called to give up their worldly pleasures to live in South Africa and build villages and wells and schools. Not everyone is even called to work insanely interesting and impactful jobs in non-profit organizations that have a direct impact on the world around us (but man that would be cool). But what everyone is called to do is to love our neighbors, and if that means being patient with a friend, or with that person who is driving 10 miles below the speed limit right in front of you, or giving your $5 that you were going to use to spend on coffee (I know, $5 for a coffee = I have a problem) to the man selling newspapers on the side of the road instead, or going to visit the lonely in our society and just being present to them, and praying for those who don’t have anyone to pray for them and everyone in need of our prayers, then that’s a really great start. If we choose to be the face of Christ’s love to those we meet, then I’m convinced that we will become extraordinary people, living extraordinary lives within our ordinary days.
I still struggle with turning this desire to love fiercely into actually following through, and I realize it’s been so difficult because I was only being content with the giant ways that someone can devote their lives to doing so. But honestly, some of the most impactful, loving, difference-making things that I’ve ever seen have come from extraordinary people, who live ordinary lives. And there’s a simple beauty in that.
So in this new year, instead of making all of these resolutions that we’re probably not going to actually follow through on, lets just love fiercely, even if it’s in small ways. Especially if it’s in small ways. Let’s put in the work in the little details and decisions in our every day to become better daughters, sisters, students, leaders, persons.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” -James 1:22
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