• We can live as 'ordinary radicals'

    Posted by Matt

    8 December, 2011

    Every one of us has a choice each day when we wake up. The option most commonly taken, often unconsciously, is to continue with the status quo, grinding it out in the way our family friends and colleagues expect us to. Work hard, sleep, enjoy the weekend, press stop and then repeat. Now don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with hard work, routine and the kind of steadiness that provides for a family. But do you ever get the feeling you were made for more than going through the motions on autopilot? Like there’s a layer missing from your life?

    The irresistible revolution - ordinary radicalsThe irresistible revolution - ordinary radicalsThe irresistible revolution - ordinary radicalsThere IS another way: the way of the ordinary radical. Ordinary radicals surround us every day, even if we don’t realise it. They tend to go under the radar and that’s the way they like it! But ordinary radicals seize each day as an opportunity to—as Mother Teresa best puts it—“Do small things with great love.” Their actions don’t necessarily involve huge amounts of money, time, resources or energy. They still work full time jobs, raise kids and pay taxes. Yet, as Shane Claiborne explains in his book 'The Irresistible Revolution', these ordinary radicals are set apart by their ability to see and understand the opportunities that present themselves each day to bless the people around them, come beside those who are hurting and speak up for those whose voices aren’t heard.

    These people are rarely the ones applauded in our celebrity culture. However, their actions provide those around them with a delicious taste of the kind of love, justice and grace only possible in the Kingdom of God. On a recent trip to Kenya with a team of Child Advocates, I met one of these ordinary radicals.

    Priscilla, a 73-year-old great-grandmother who lives in Njoro, Kenya, has had to bury her husband, seven of her nine children and three of her five grandchildren. Even though she is going blind, still works casual jobs that can earn her up to 80cents a day in order to look after the five great-grandchildren that remain. The cost of feeding them, clothing them, giving them shelter and putting them through school isn’t cheap. So as we sat in her small mud home, listening to a life story marred by tragedy upon tragedy, there was one question going through the mind of every member of our team: What are we going to do to help this lady and her family?

    As we were saying our goodbyes, this question burning away in our hearts, Priscilla turned everything on its head. Just minutes after telling us how difficult it is to provide the bare necessities for her family, she told us she had a gift for us and proceeded to pass us a huge bag of corn cobs. A simple gift, but one that changed everything in a moment.

    The members of our team backed away, insisting that we couldn’t possibly take this from her. After all, we were there to bless and serve the locals, those “less fortunate” than ourselves. But Priscilla’s gift was much more than a bag of corn. It was a lesson in generosity and sacrifice far beyond the scope of our daily lives in Australia. It was a gift that could not be rejected. So we stepped forward, took the bag and thanked her.

    The generosity and love of ordinary radicals like Priscilla is too much for the rest of us to take. It catches us off-guard and blindsides us. It unsettles the expected and forces us to revaluate our beliefs and assumptions about the way things are or should be – to question who the victims of hopelessness really are. Ordinary radicals demonstrate an incredible alternative to the ways in which so many of us live our lives, not because they have more talents and resources than the rest of us, but because they see things in a different way. Yet the greatest thing about ordinary radicals is that their numbers are not limited and they are not an exclusive group— they will always welcome new members to their peaceful revolution of love and grace, which is being carried out right under our noses.

    Today, you face a choice: Will I take the everyday opportunities I am given to live my life as an ordinary radical?

    What will you choose?

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    Matt Darvas works as a Child Advocate Network Coordinator for Compassion Australia (a Micah Challenge coalition agency). He was also the 2010 Political Engagement Intern with Micah Challenge.