“Making the word a better place” seems to be the innate mantra of the human heart. Charity events, kindness movements, humanitarian works, we’ve seen it all. But not everyone feels like the big and powerful. More often than not, we are always in awe of what the big names of this world do to improve the standard of living as a general theme. Although giving to charities or taking part as volunteers may make us feel better about ourselves, we still seem so far from greatness. Greatness is perpetuated by media, and these loud big voices always tend to drown out what truly changes hearts and lives – the everyday mundanity.
People seem to have an indifference toward mundanity for all its, sadly, ordinariness. But here’s the big question that the media doesn’t seem to answer: what happens after the sparks and fireworks?
It is the everyday effort that we put into ordinary things that nurture and ultimately transform a person’s life. By taking a lesser look at ourselves but taking a little more effort to care, encourage and nurture someone, it is inexplicable how much we become the catalysts to push them into greatness, even in the little ways that are not deemed “great” in the eyes of the world.
In the past year I’ve found myself surrounded by students aged 13-16 and put under my care. In others’ eyes, they were simply students, some lesser than a “good student”, incapable and looked upon as a general adolescent with a bad attitude. But taking time to know these bunch was the best things I’ve ever done in my life. They had different ambitions, different strengths, different personalities. I do have to admit that many a times they’ve made me have to hold back my words and take deep breaths (and possibly wonder if I have to go through therapy for the trauma that I’ve gone through), but even more times I felt that they were simply unpolished gems – precious stones that would gradually shine brighter and brighter as dirt was slowly chipped off from them.
The sad thing that I discovered was, as I spent more time with these children, they lacked in their confidence for greatness, simply because the greatness as defined by the world seemed so far from them. Their parents’ expectations were a heavy load, not being able to perform academically was another, but the culprit that killed their dreams was none other than the acceptance into a mediocre life. They feel fear at the first sight of failure, and never believed they could learn anything new. They compared themselves to other students and asked me “Why don’t you ask him/her instead? They’re so much better.”And how I wanted to, with all my heart, to let them know that it was never about the expectations and measuring standards of others but what they, as an individual of their own right, have the power to pursue and dream if only they dared.
So I set to work – to everyday remind myself to do the mundane things, such as texting them constantly, calling them up to find out how they’re doing in school, meeting them up for meals, helping them to catch up in their schoolwork, and constantly affirming the fact that if they wanted something, they could have it as long as they dared, and that if no one else stood by them, they could have the assurance of looking back and finding me there. We celebrated the smallest of achievements and stuck together through the tough times. And what warmed my heart is often not the achievements they have but how they grow in their values, confidence, and spirituality. Today, they may still not be defined as “great” in the eyes of others and definitely far from perfect, but they are the best in mine.
So what’s the difference between the fancy fireworks and the humble candles? The answer lies in the commitment. Fireworks last but for a moment, but the candle burns to the very end. We can send aid, send money, send help, and yet the greatness is but a momentary feat. But when we make a decision to be committed to a person’s life through the everyday mundane things, the transformation often passes our eyes due to the time it takes, yet they will one day shine in their own right, without a blemish of fear and self-loathing.
However, mundanity is like a double-edged sword. It requires naught but discipline and a genuine heart. When we are undisciplined over the small things and only seek the appreciation and expectation of something in return, the things we do everyday will eventually become unmet expectations and disappointments that kill our spirit and break another’s trust.
At the end of the day, when we are at the peak of our greatness of all the world’s glory, what would we say? It’s not the organizations we thank, nor the charities we received, neither the motivational talks which points have already long escaped everyone’s minds, but it is the people who stood by us, believed in us, and went through the everyday mundane with us.
And in my absolute personal opinion, I suppose that the true beauty of this mundanity is that its greatness can be achieved by anyone of the ordinary.