Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

Tearful return: Kathy Cirillo (above) weeps as she follows the casket carrying her son, Corporal Nathan Cirillo

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Canada is in mourning.  On Wednesday a lone gunman approached Corporal Nathan Cirillo, one of two honour guards at the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, and shot him point blank.  The gunman then highjacked a car, raced to Parliament Hill, burst into Centre Block and came within metres of our government, including the prime minister, doing business.  The sargeant-at-arms, whose role of protecting Parliament is chiefly ceremonial, shot and killed the gunman before he could do more harm.  He too is a hero.

My thoughts are muddled and unclear but I'm going to explore them here anyway.

One thing that comes to mind is that we've had a lot of soldiers die for our country and for the values we hold dear but few, if any, have received the press-coverage of Nathan Cirillo.  Crowds lined the Highway of Heroes as Cirillo's hearse travelled home to Hamilton.  Where were the crowds for the other fallen?  How much of our mourning is driven by media?

While the nation was glued to the TV for all the news available on Wednesday, Winnipeg was having a civic election. The next morning, the major headlines were not of the shooting in Ottawa that Prime Minister Harper called terrorism, but of the unexpected candidate becoming mayor.  That which gripped the rest of the nation was relegated to page six or eleven.  I felt offended. Was I justified?  Which event will have the greatest impact on Winnipeg?  How do editors decide?

This morning, I was reading Oswald Chambers, as I am wont to do, and was struck by a statement he makes:
The faithful few, who are an offence to our great organisations, are the disguised citizens of the Kingdom of God.*
What it made me think of was the ordinary person who follows God and speaks about Jesus to all who will listen--there are many of them.  I think of R, whose unruly facial hair catches and holds what goes into his mouth and out of his nose for days, whose hands are rarely washed, who has trouble keeping an apartment--beaten by foster parents decades ago to a point of permanent impairment--but who sings God's praises unceasingly and assures many of how loved they are by God.  I think of the little old lady in her 90s, bent over, frail, dependent on a walker, unattractive in appearance and often offensive in her mannerisms, who faithfully tends to the disenfranchised, urging them to follow God.  I think of the young mothers, tending their children without praise or honour, simply because that is where God has put them.  I think of the janitors and custodians who silently make sure our churches, offices, stores and malls are kept clean.  These are the disguised, the unrecognised, the ordinary and the faithful.  They're the ones "our great organisations" don't acknowledge because we venerate the beautiful, the powerful, the hip.

Nathan Cirillo was one of these ordinary people until he met an extraordinary end.  No one would have heard about him or known who he was, outside his immediate circle, had he not been shot.  His family says that even had he known the gunman was coming, he would have kept his post standing guard.  This is what the ordinary do.  They do what they are called to do without recognition or reward.  They serve regardless of the cost.  They don't stand out and don't draw our attention.

We need such people.  And when we are the ordinary, as most, if not all of us are, we too need to be faithful to what we've been called to do--whether that involves changing diapers, sweeping floors or standing guard.

What ordinary thing are you called to do?  Will you do it in an extraordinary way despite being ordinary and hidden?  Are you willing to be ordinary and let others be praised?  Will I? Am I? I need to ponder this more.

*"'Will you also Go Away?'" in God's Workmanship in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers. Page 457.

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