Extraordinary in the Ordinary
Last week I had the opportunity to visit some friends in Montgomery, Alabama. Folks who I miss like crazy—the kind of people who you go months without seeing and then pick up right where you left off. A couple of them were meeting my wife for the first time and all of them were meeting my son for the first time. That in and of itself was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever experienced—watching my whole world expand in an instant. But there was one moment in particular in our reunion that struck me and leaves me full to overflowing now as I think back on it.
My friend’s sixteen-year-old is big on playing basketball and recruits folks to play with him every chance he gets. We noticed a set of courts as we were driving up to our AirBnB and we knew this would be a place where we’d head eventually. When we arrived with a slew of kids ages two to sixteen, we were quite the rowdy crew. The older kids started shooting around and it wasn’t very long until three young black men (probably twelve-years-old) came and asked us to play a game. We resisted at first, but they really wanted to play. And so we did. We played a pick-up game of basketball there together. They insisted on playing three on five for the first game, but upon discovering that our height gave us quite the rebounding advantage, they agreed to split up teams.
Montgomery, Alabama is a place with deep racial mistrust. And for good reason. White folks have consistently asserted their privilege and done real and lasting harm. Not only in the pre and immediately-post civil rights era but to this very day. There are ways that my ignorance has contributed to that. And I’m in no way saying that a pick-up basketball game on the 30th of December changed everything. I’m not even saying that those things weren’t a part of that very moment. But in spite of all that, there was something special there. There was a spark of shared fun and competition, along with a good personal dose of self-deprecating humor and it felt magical. It felt like we got to glimpse life exactly as it should be, if only for a moment.
Sunday evening we told the story of the magi—wise, wealthy people who came to honor the child-king Jesus. And what they found there was not a young king robed in majesty. Instead what they found was a very ordinary family living a very ordinary life. And yet something there was extraordinary. Those extraordinary moments alongside our ordinary lives—that’s the stuff dreams are made of. In this new year, may we take time to notice those extraordinary moments in our ordinary lives.