People keep dying, and it's getting on my nerves. Not people I know, but people who are known by people I know. Sometimes, it's removed one or two more times; close enough that I hear about it, but not so much that I am upset enough that it affects me longer than a few minutes. I'm sorry. Do you want to get some lunch? It's like Six Degrees of the Grim Reaper.
It's kind of depressing.
And I think what really annoys me is the coopting of tragedy that seems to go on, especially on social media sites. Please pray for my aunt's neighbor, she is very ill and needs your good thoughts! I'm not sure what her name is, but I know if you just pray for "Susie's Aunt's Neighbor", God will hear you! I'm guilty of this, I admit it. I pass along stories of horrible things that happen to people I don't really know. I'm saying, this is horrible! But I'm thinking, thank God it isn't me. It's like the telling is a talisman against the Boogeyman who is constantly circling, his stinking breath fogging up our windows, his dog shitting in our yard.
Hug your babies tight tonight! They warn us. As if the death of a stranger makes us love our children more, or take our good fortune for granted less.
What do we take for granted?
There is an elderly gentleman at church, who comes alone each Sunday. He shuffles in to the coffee room after the mass, his shoulders stooped and one hand shoved in his pocket. Everyone is cordial, everyone is always cordial, but you can see the slight shift in bodies when he walks in. People suddenly need to use the bathroom, or see someone about something, somewhere. Because he's going to talk - a lot. He might start by pronouncing some great truth in Latin, followed by an awkward silence while everyone tries desperately to remember their one semester of high school Latin. Then he translates, and everyone nods knowingly, as if we have any idea where this is going.
Then he starts in. It may be a story about his time in the Army, or his years spent as a traveling salesman, or as an educator. And while his audience tries desperately to come up with a subtle and polite escape, they miss the story. They take it for granted. Because here's the deal - This is the coolest guy you'll ever meet.
He is old and bent and ignored and taken for granted because he appears so terrifically ordinary.
I remarked to a friend recently that I thought she lived a very different life inside her head. She wasn't sure if I was being sarcastic, or insulting, or complimentary. The truth is, she is a very ordinary, intensely interesting person. Not everyone is out there making movies and writing policy and curing cancer. But the guy driving the truck is no less complicated, his life no less rich, than the guy exploring the jungles of South America.
OK, the explorer might be a little more interesting. The point is, everyone has a story. This is what we take for granted, from the people we meet every day, to the man in the church basement, to the people in our own families.
And the tragedy is when we lose them, never having heard their story. Our lives are littered with unassuming people, content in simplicity, taking for granted their own importance. Go, find one of them now, and ask them to tell you a story.