Only a plain, common
(J. R. Miller, "The Every Day of Life" 1892)
Perhaps the every-day of life, is not as interesting--as are some of the bright special days. It is apt to be somewhat monotonous. It is just like a great many other days. It has nothing special to mark it. It is illuminated by no brilliant event. It bears no record of any brave or noble deed done. It is not made memorable by the coming of any new experience into the life--a new hope, a new friendship, a new joy, and a new success. It is not even touched with sorrow, and made to stand out with the memory of loss or struggle. It is only a plain, common day--with just the same old wearisome routine--of tasks and duties and happenings, which have come so often before.
Yet it is the every-day, which is really the best measure and the test of noble living. Anybody can do well on special occasions. Anybody can be good--on Sundays. Anybody can be bright and cheerful--in exhilarating society. Anybody can be sweet--amid gentle influences. Anybody can make an isolated self-denial--for some conspicuous object; or do a generous deed--under the impulse of some unusual emotion. Anybody can do a heroic thing--once or twice in a lifetime. These are beautiful things. They shine like lofty peaks above life's plains.
But the ordinary attainment of the common days--is a truer index of the life--a truer measure of its character and value--than are the most striking and brilliant things of its exalted moments. It requires more strength to be faithful in the ninety-nine commonplace duties, when no one is looking on, when there is no special motive to stir the soul to its best effort--than it does in the one duty, which by its unusual importance, or by its conspicuousness, arouses enthusiasm for its own doing. It is a great deal easier to be brave in one stern conflict which calls for heroism, in which large interests are involved--than to be brave in the thousand little struggles of the common days--for which it seems scarcely worth while to put on the armor. It is very much less a task to be good-natured under one great provocation, in the presence of others--than it is to keep sweet temper month after month of ordinary days, amid the frictions, strife's, petty annoyances, and cares of home-life.
Thus it is, that one's every-day life is a surer revealer of noble character--than one's public acts. There are men who are magnificent when they appear on great occasions--wise, eloquent, masterly--but who are almost utterly unendurable in their fretfulness, unreasonableness, irascibility, and all manner of selfish disagreeableness, in the privacy of their own homes--to those whom they ought to show all of love's gentleness and sweetness! There are women, too, who shine with wondrous brilliancy in society, sparkling in conversation, winning in manner, always the center of admiring groups, resistless in their charms--but who, in their every-day life, in the presence of only their own households--are the dullest and most wearisome of mortals! No doubt in these cases--the common every-day, unflattering as it is--is a truer expression of the inner life--than the hour or two of greatness or graciousness, in the blaze of the public.
On the other hand, there are men who are never heard of on the street, whose names never appear in the newspapers, who do no great conspicuous things, whose lives have no glittering peaks towering high--and yet the level plain of their years--is rich in its beauty and its fruitfulness of love. Likewise, there are women who are the idols of no drawing-rooms, who attract no throngs of admirers around them by resistless charms--but who, in their own quiet sheltered world--do their daily tasks with faithfulness, move in ways of humble duty and quiet cheerfulness, and pour out their heart's pure love, like fragrance, on all around them. Who will say that the uneventful and un-praised every-day of these humble ones--is not radiant in God's sight, though they leave no memorial--but only a world made a little better by their lives?
It is in the every-day of life, that nearly all the world's best work is done. The tall mountain peaks lift their glittering crests into the clouds, and win attention and admiration; but it is in the great valleys and broad plains, that the harvests grow and the fruits ripen--on which the millions of earth feed their hunger. Likewise, it is not from the few conspicuous deeds of life, that the blessings chiefly come, which make the world, better, sweeter, happier--but from the countless humble services of the every-days, the little faithfulnesses which fill long years. By the simple beauty of their own humble lives, by their quiet deeds of self-sacrifice, by the songs of their cheerful faith, and by the ministries of their helpful hands--they make one little spot of this sad earth, brighter and happier!