Ordinary life is my biggest blessing.

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Real life is mundane. Real life is ordinary; From waking up with muck in your eyes and going to the grocery store for milk, to going on a yearly family trip and getting a paycheck. But then it’s the moments in between that make your heart pop out of its socket, one hop too quick, one beat too sudden. Those are the bumps on the road we all secretly wish for because we want to feel something, sometimes anything. Even if it’s discomfort of a new shoe because the comfort of an old well-worn shoe tends to suffocate.

Just the other day I was thinking about the monotony of life. Routine can be exhausting. But despite the redundancy, I am old enough to understand that an uneventful day is something to be grateful about. As humans we are programmed to seek thrill from life. We turn to fantasy, disbelief and magic of the world to jolt us. If nothing else, for many even a good dose of gossip is enough. We  love to hear stories of ordinary people doing the remarkable. Apart from the chants of ooo,s and aaa,s our minds stop to ponder for a minute, ‘What if that was me?!’  A Pakistani girl gets shot in the head, survives and goes on to become a Nobel Peace Prize winner. The perfect story for a book or a movie. But since its real life, her story gets an added gold star. We breathe a little in awe-inspiring lives of others. We paint our colors on their unreal canvas. But at the end of the day, we always want to snap out of it and get back to our much-welcomed reality.

The question however remains. Why do we squirm in our seats when life gets too redundant? What’s so inviting about surprise?  Should we wish for the extraordinary, the occasional bumps or detours on the road? Or should we find peace in the drudgery of life? Some would argue the presence of fate and destiny. No matter what you wish for, if something is going to happen, it will – be it good or bad. It could be anything really. You wake up, trip over your laptop’s charger and end up in the hospital. Or you get mugged on your way to an interview. Or a friend’s friend gets hit by lightning. Or a close relative falls terminally ill. Don’t get me wrong. Wonderful things also happen in life. People win the lottery. Your book becomes a best seller. Your finally get along with your mother-in-law. The good or the bad, as long as there’s a tinge of surprise adding oomph like jalapenos in your salad, routine becomes worth breaking. Life happens to others a bit more bluntly than others. Maybe it’s in the stars. Those who experience extraordinary circumstances usually don’t buckle under pressure. Maybe they have a stronger heart and a sturdier stomach to endure.  Maybe they are just built that way.

My story so far is ordinary. Unless you call a toddler puking on a road trip and a preschooler sleep-talking something special. And I am happy with that. Every time I think I’m stuck in a rut I try to remind myself that I need to be grateful. I don’t need a speed-breaker because I am traveling at a comfortable 50 KMH. I love adventure and surprises but I don’t have the stomach for greater things. My penchant for thrill will hopefully come from roller coasters and bunji jumping.  I shrivel under pressure. My nerves tighten and get jammed like the highway during rush hour. I’d like to blame it on the hormones, but I don’t think I can get away with that every time. That’s just me.
People say you can tell a lot about a person if you travel with them. I think I`m a good traveler and I usually enjoy a lot. But on one occasion I almost lost my luggage after a strenuous journey of 24 hours with just my two children. And the minute I saw my husband outside, instead of greeting him with a smile I was an angry wreck in tears. Eventually all turned out well and my luggage was found.

I also learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes when you’ve lived a life of comfort for too long, it gets difficult to expect the unexpected.  I did not have to react the way I did.  People have lost more. Life? Family? Health? Faith? Surely misplaced baggage does not fit the criteria. Maybe that`s why God keeps me snuggled in a beautifully ordinary life. And that is my biggest blessing.

I can do with a bit more of strengthening but a six-pack mind? No thank you,  I’ll pass. I don’t have the nerves of steel, or even brass. I am gold (in terms of malleability and besides modesty is my biggest virtue) on my good days.  And that too after plenty of effort.

What about you? Does life’s monotony get overbearing at times? Does a break from it all make you feel alive, no matter how shocking? Or are you content with your life’s routine?

If mentally challenged means having unlimited faith, then Henry McCollum is better than us

Imagine being accused for something you didn’t do. Not something trivial like breaking a traffic signal. Think farther, think  the worst. Rape. Murder. Imagine rotting in prison for thirty years for it. Now stop imagining because it’s all real. This is not a movie plot. It has happened to real people.

There’s a lot to be said of Henry McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown – death row inmates in North Carolina who were recently exonerated from the rape and murder of an eleven-year old girl after thirty years. Just when you think all goodness has left humanity, you come across people who show you what strength is all about. It’s not about power, money, or fame. It’s not even about being intellectual. It’s about having crazy, almost unreal belief that you will get by. It’s about having the foresight to see past the fog. The two brothers have been labeled intellectually disabled with limited abilities to read and write. But no one would have guessed their secret powers.

Two things that Henry can teach us supposedly intellectual people.

1. You don’t need much, just faith. In God.

In an interview to the press after his release, Henry showed utmost gratitude to Almighty God.  After a three decade long ordeal you’d imagine a disillusioned, angry person with hatred and vengeance oozing out like plant sap. What you see instead is the calm and thankful face of Henry Lee McCollum that blows you away. He is nothing you’d expect. In a world that teaches us to fight back with fury and hate, you don’t expect such faith. How can a person having suffered so much still be grateful? He has a low IQ, some would give this reason. But what does that prove, other than superficial standards of who is clever and who isn’t? He sees and feels what most of us don’t. He probably saw faith every morning in his prison cell. He felt gratitude in every breath he took, or with every bite of inedible food; reassuring him he was meant to live another day. Maybe his smile and the friends he made willed him to go on. He probably endured unimaginable horror but he held on tight. Imagine this level of gratitude coming from a person who experienced hell and came back. “God is good all the time,” he said. As it appears, it is the mentally challenged people like you and I who could do with a bit more faith.

2. Hope for the better, even if it kills you.

Henry took this quite literally. He hoped with the angel of death hovering over his head. He knew he wasn’t wrong and that is reason enough for the hopelessly hopeful. In Henry’s own words, “I knew one day I was going to be blessed to get out of prison, I just didn’t know when that time was going to be.” This stubborn and childish dream in a land where the sun refused to shine for thirty years is what makes Henry stronger and better than most of us.

Everyone doesn’t get justice like Henry. Many innocent people suffer till the end. But maybe hope and faith together make the journey livable.

It is rather presumptuous to call such exceptional people ‘mentally challenged’. I wonder why actual murderers, liars and rapists aren’t called so? If having a high IQ means humans can mastermind brutal crimes and treachery, aren’t people like Henry better off?

After Henry’s release, the first thing he learned was fastening his safety belt. Later on his father James shared plans to teach his fifty-year old son fishing.

If only unlearning hate, dishonesty and faithlessness were that easy.