As a writer, my primary focus is on ordinary life and ordinary people, because for all that politicians, writers, seminar speakers, and the movie industry talk about real, regular human beings, they don’t get it.
I’ve always enjoyed Hollywood’s interpretation of life in a small town — you know, where the Sheriff has drinks at the only bar with the one and only doctor, who is sleeping with the veterinarian because she’s the only unmarried woman under 30 in the place. Everybody knows everybody else, and except for a series of random murders by a resident psychopath who has gone undetected for 10 years, life is bucolic and friendly.
Ordinary people are quirky and cute, but a little dumb and ineffectual. They make a great foil for the smart, savvy, cosmopolitan characters from the big city. Real people — important people — make a lot of money, drive nice cars, live in sumptuous apartments, and converse in one-liners.
Outside of the movie world, important people are harder to
recognize, because they generally don’t mesh incredible good looks with massive amounts of money; they just wear suits and look powerful. But the message for the ordinary person is the same — you’re quirky and cute, but a little dumb and ineffectual. You’re not particularly necessary or important, and when it comes to actually helping other people on the planet, you don’t have resources necessary to fund massive vaccination campaigns, “donate” technological equipment to schools, or set up huge agrarian farms with the ultimate purpose of feeding the world by increasing the supply of genetically modified food.
You’re one person, one family, with an ordinary life and an ordinary income, so there is very little that you can do to make an actual impact on the world.
Don’t you bet on it.
Many charities and benevolent institutions are funded on the backs of ordinary people, dependent upon $10 here, $50 there, and when enough contributions come in from unimportant, ordinary people, a business is born. Your contribution, no matter how small, is worth something, and because it’s worth something, it behooves you to make sure that you’re giving it to the right place.
My Norwegian Artist and I are not rich, but we have enough to eat, indoor plumbing with potable water, a roof over our heads, and decent clothes — four vital elements that many people on this planet do not have. So when we can, and however we can, we give to others who have less, and in this attitude we are like most ordinary people: we recognize that despite not driving a Lexus, we are incredibly blessed, and the best thing to do with blessings is to pass them on to others.
Because Steve’s paintings focus on beauty, especially that of the human form, we gravitated toward Samaritan’s Purse Cleft Lip Surgery Project in South Sudan — we like to know that what we give makes an impact upon an individual person, and because we work hard to make every dollar we earn, we like it to stretch as far as possible. When you give a single mom you know $35 to go toward the electric bill, you’re making a real impact on a real life, and you don’t have to feel like a loser because you don’t have a corporate charitable fund.
This world is made up of billions of ordinary people. Some of them have enough to eat, indoor
plumbing with potable water, a roof over their heads, and decent clothes; many, many others do not. But all of us, one by one with the resources we have been given, have the ability to help somebody else who has fewer things, and more pain, than we have. We can buy a cup of coffee for a homeless person; we can visit a forgotten resident in a nursing home; we can write a note to someone who is lonely; we can actually listen to a child when she is talking.
And our sheer power is our ordinariness. Because we’re not wildly rich and powerful, we don’t fool ourselves into thinking that we are more than we are: human beings, who live a certain number of years on this planet, and then die. What will we do with the time that we have been given?
If you’re an ordinary person, you’re probably not a millionaire, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy with what you have been given. My book, Live Happily on Less — Renovate Your Life and Lifestyle, is a commonsense guide for real, regular people on how to live with the resources that they have.
Join me every Friday for my columns on Financial Health. As in my book, I talk about realistic, reachable things you can do to enjoy what you have, now.
This article was originally published at ThoughtfulWomen.org.