Sometimes, ordinary days can produce extraordinary insights into our human need for communication, hope and empathy.
Years ago, in a Boston mental hospital, a girl known as "Little Annie" was placed in a solitary room referred to by staff as "The Dungeon." It was basically a dimly lit cage, allowing only minimal contact because she would attack or ignore anyone who got too close.
A nurse nearing retirement was transferred to The Dungeon and assigned to Little Annie. She tried engaging and interacting, but received no response from the girl who seem oblivious to her presence.
One day, the compassionate nurse brought freshly baked brownies to leave outside Little Annie's cage. Annie gave no hint she knew they were there, but when the nurse returned the next day, they were gone!
Miraculously, fresh brownies became a bridge to human connection. Awareness evolved. Violence decreased. Eventually, she was transferred back upstairs and finally told she could return home. Instead, Annie asked that she please be allowed to stay and help other patients.
Many years later, Queen Victoria, while pinning England's highest award on a foreigner, asked the recipient, Helen Keller: "How do you account for your remarkable accomplishments in life? How do you explain the fact that even though you were both blind and deaf, you were able to accomplish so much?" Without hesitation, Helen said: "Had it not been for God's grace and love flowing out of Anne Sullivan to me, the name Helen Keller would have remained unknown."
On an otherwise ordinary day, an elderly nurse close to retirement changed the world by offering a seemingly hopeless girl fresh brownies.
On a less dramatic scale, we too can experience breakthroughs.
For example, it was just an ordinarily cold, damp day in February when I splurged on what has to be the 8th wonder of the world --- a dual-control electric blanket. Our 100 year old raised Acadian cottage was well-insulated but still a bit drafty in cold, windy weather.
The first night with the new blanket was a disappointment. I got chilled and turned up the dial, only to feel colder! That made no sense. My wife got too warm, turned down the dial but eventually felt hotter. The 2nd night was no better. Then, around midnight, my eyes popped open. Looking under the mattress, I saw the problem -- the control wires were crossed.
When I tried to make my half of the bed warmer, it made HER side warmer, so she turned down her control, which made my side colder, prompting me to turn mine higher in an ever-escalating cycle of frustration.
It reminded me of the day my wife called to say: "I'll be a little late. The Madisonville bridge is open." I wondered: "If the bridge is open, why would she be late?" I imagined cars flowing across the bridge. Then, I realized when she said "open" it meant "closed," and cars were barricaded from crossing. Of course! "Open" meant "CLOSED." What's wrong with me?!
On otherwise ordinary days, when the well seems dry and nothing works, try some directional drilling from another angle. You might hit a gusher.
On another ordinary day, I ventured into summer heat to cut the lawn. As soon as I cranked the mower, a bright red dragonfly landed firmly on my shirt and remained there for 45 minutes as I mowed every inch of one acre. When I finished, the red dragon vanished in the blink of an eye, leaving a strong feeling I had just been visited by a messenger
This happened three days after my sister Barbara’s funeral. When I last saw her, she asked: “Do you believe there really is a heaven?” Our eyes locked and I said: “Yes, I'm sure of it.” She then gave me a hug I can still feel and said: “I’m gonna come back to bug you. I promise!”
In Native American tradition, the dragonfly is a symbol of being visited by departed souls. Now, my ordinary backyard has become a “thin place,” as the Celtic people described it where, even on an ordinary day, winds of the spirit can deliver a message filled with mystery and awe.
As a concluding example of extraordinary dailyness, I awoke one morning with the weirdest sensation of having an out-of-body experience, feeling queasy and light-headed. After three cups of coffee, and still no relief, I thought a hot shower might help. Pulling off my sleep-shirt, I noticed something strange on my belly. It was my wife's estrogen patch that somehow had peeled off of her and clung to me!
We called our pharmacist and asked what would happen if a man wore an estrogen patch. He guessed I would have all the symptoms of morning sickness. Now, when a female client tells me she's been feeling "hormonal," I say: "I know what you mean," but the response is often the same: "You can't possibly know what I mean. You're a man." Then, I share my female-for-a-day experience, gained quite accidentally on an otherwise ordinary day.
The thing about life is it's so DAILY, but ordinary is not necessarily boring!