Most of us dream of making a difference in this world. We want to leave our mark, maybe run a company, hold a political office or have a recognizable name.
Then reality hits and life gets hard.
When you are the parent or caregiver of someone with a special need, days are filled with responsibilities: visits to therapists, educational meetings and attending to our loved one.
It’s overwhelming to say the least.
Comparing Our Lives to Others
As a parent of a child with autism, there were times when my world seemed very small. Every day was a replay of the same monotonous tasks—of laundry and chores, making dinners and tying shoes. My world existed of trips to and from school, the grocery store and doctor’s offices. In the midst of my ordinary life, my own dreams of making a difference, of living a life of significance, faded away.
It didn’t help that my friends’ Facebook pages were filled with exciting trips, promotions and a steady supply of accomplishments. How could I, with so much on my plate, ever achieve what they have achieved?
I often found myself gazing out of the window, palm to glass,
wishing for more of the extraordinary in my very ordinary world.
That is, until God leaned down to show me a new way to look at living life. To God, the greatest kind of living comes from serving, and often in very simple ways.
Extraordinary Living Is Right Before Our Eyes
God has been teaching me these last few months about living an extraordinary life, and it’s not what I thought it was. It’s not about making a name for myself. It’s about connecting with another person that God has placed on my path. It’s about opening my eyes to the extraordinary in the ordinary, and guess what? It’s all around me.
And it’s all around you, too.
In one chance encounter, you could have an opportunity to forever change a life for the better. Let me share an example:
The most extraordinary act of love I know came from a woman who often feels invisible. Her name is Amanda.
Amanda’s father left her mother and her home when she was three years of age. Growing up was hard, with her mother working long hours to keep food on the table and shoes on her feet.
In the years since, Amanda’s life has been one struggle after another. She has battled with depression and feelings of abandonment. Now in her 30s, she’s dropped out of several colleges and gotten lost more than a few times along the way.
When her beloved grandmother had a stroke and was sent to a nursing home, Amanda would visit after work each night and sit by her bedside. From the hallway she could hear the cries of residents and one particular cry caused her to investigate.
It came from the room of an elderly lady who was calling for someone to attend to her. She was lying in her bed alone and unkempt, her hair dirty and disheveled. Amanda’s eyes fell to the woman’s feet. They were black with dirt. Amanda took out a comb and lovingly combed the woman’s hair. Then she went to retrieve a pan of warm water and a towel. She dipped the towel into the water and washed the dirt from the woman’s feet.
Did you catch that? She literally washed a stranger’s feet.
In that moment, Amanda was no longer the abandoned child who had lost her way. She was no longer invisible. In that moment, she became the very Light of Christ, the holy hands of the Father, and the grace of His Son.
In that moment, Amanda was living an extraordinary life in the midst of ordinary circumstances.
Why does this matter?
Raising a child with a special need is often a thankless job. We often feel invisible, our hands tied to the never ending tasks of caring for our child. It’s hard not to compare our life with the lives of others … but we must not! Because even in the midst of so much responsibility, we can make a significant difference in the world right where we are, even today. This happens when we ask God to open our eyes to see what He sees … and then respond as He leads.
Like Amanda did.
God provides opportunities for extraordinary living each day and I promise, we won’t have to go far to find them. More often than not, we will make the greatest impact on the world in very simple ways. We can dramatically change a life (our child, a caregiver, a teacher, therapist or another parent) by:
- Daring to offer a kind word to a stranger;
- Encouraging another parent by sharing your story;
- Offering a moment of grace to a teacher or caregiver who is stressed out;
- Offering a smile to your child when you are too tired to think straight.
My challenge to you is to keep your eyes open for opportunities to live an extraordinary life in the world around you, right here, right now.
Ask God to show you one person who needs a dose of encouragement. Take a risk, speak a word of kindness and see what God will do. You may not get to see the ripples return from that one tossed stone of kindness, but rest assured, words of love will have a profound impact.
Extraordinary Living Exemplified in Scripture
Christ left His heavenly home to walk our dusty roads alongside the poor. Led by His Father, He reached out to those who were ostracized by society. In each day He touched the suffering and took time to sit with children. In simple encounters He spoke words of love and truth that even now, 2000 years later, still hang in the air.
His was an extraordinary life lived in the midst of ordinary days. And because of Him, I will never be the same.
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”
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