Ordinary People – Who are they?


“India Rising — Prince of Thieves” acrylic on canvas

A man watched his depressed wife murder their two children and then hand the gun over to him so he could fulfill his part in their suicide pact. He shot his wife and then could not pull the trigger to end his own life.

Afterward, when neighbors were asked to describe this husband and father, now accused of murder, they shrugged and said “he was just an ordinary man.”

Ordinary people sometimes commit egregious acts. The problem is that we only see the outside shell. It is what goes on inside the mind and the heart that triggers a horrible incident. What did that “ordinary” man do in his spare time when he wasn’t working or socializing with the neighbors? Was he drinking too much or getting hooked on something stronger?

Was he feeding the fires of revenge and hatred? Was he depressed? Did he spend his alone hours watching pornography and indulging in sexual fantasies or sadism. As Emerson once said “We are what we think.” We cannot know someone completely if their secret thoughts and acts are hidden.

When someone snaps, it’s usually the result of a gradual descent into depravity, pain, or grief; an accumulation of events that eventually reach a boiling point or explosion. The internal poison and pain build up until it must either find an outlet or an escape valve. Without this release, under pressure, acts of violence against self or others may occur.

There are no ordinary people. We are all subject to trauma, evil and sin. We all experience emotional and physical pain. It is simply an inescapable part of life. How can society prevent suicide or acts of violence from happening? How can we keep our family, friends and neighbors from acting out and, instead, reach out for help and assistance?

We need to pay attention. If you haven’t seen a neighbor in awhile and you know they are home, seek them out to see if they are all right. Don’t worry about being “nosy.” Assume a caring attitude and offer help. Sometimes a simple thing like taking the children for an afternoon to relieve an overwrought and over worked mom is all that is needed.

African Violets 005

My neighbor Alice hadn’t seen me or my children for awhile. One day she showed up on my doorstep with a shovel and a start of a plant from her yard that I had admired. “I think you need some sunshine,” she quipped. “Let’s plant this start together – do you remember this?” She displayed the green leaves with the lavender spray of flowers.

As we planted, we talked. The sunshine not only warmed my body but my soul. I never told her what was bothering me, although she suspected postpartum depression since I’d just given birth to my fourth child a few weeks before. It didn’t matter. Her presence gave me the support and caring I needed and probably prevented me from doing something foolish.

As Rivvy Neshama wrote in her book “Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a few Miracles,” if we would just “look around and ask ourselves what is wanted? What is needed?” We might be able to prevent a tragedy in our own family or neighborhood.

Ordinary people look like you and me. They may even act like you and me. But the fact is that there is no such person. Each individual is unique and unrepeatable. Instead of trying to lump them together into a common understandable and repeatable entity, we should seek out the traits that make them different. Not for the purpose of dividing us, but to recognize the special qualities that define each of us.

If a red flag goes up or your gut instincts tell you something is wrong, heed the warnings. Don’t give your trust to just anyone. Trust must be earned. Canned phrases like “Muslims are peaceful people,” or blacks can’t be trusted” only add to your internal confusion.

Not everyone has your best interests at heart. Even “ordinary” people may intend harm. Learn to trust yourself. I know I’ve done it. I’ve talked myself into disregarding my gut instincts by saying things like “that’s racist,” or thinking that “just because he or she is Arab doesn’t make them a terrorist.” But what if they are? What if those warning vibes going off in your head are right and there’s a reason why they’re going off?

“Love thy neighbor” but make sure your neighbor has good intentions. As Ronald Reagan once said “Trust, but verify.”

Ordinary people deserve your good will, but looks can be deceiving. In this distressful and confusing world, kindness and friendliness are needed more than ever, but don’t be a fool. You only have one life to live and perhaps one chance to save it.

Consider your surroundings. Proceed with caution. And trust your internal antennae. Don’t throw caution to the wind because you’re ashamed of feeling uneasy in someone else’s presence. Protect your instincts first and act before it’s too late.


“Broken” 11×14 mixed media (SOLD); prints available.

Don’t Let your Partner Browbeat or Bulldoze you!

"Namesake" acrylic on canvas

“Namesake” acrylic on canvas

I’ve been married three times, so I’ve earned the right to “tell it like it is.” Three different men have been a part of my life, and each thought that his way was the best way and the only way!

I’ve had to relearn new ways and unlearn old habits. Just when I thought it was “economical to turn off the radio on my car when I stopped the engine,” I had to change because another spouse thought it didn’t make a diddly-squat difference.

One partner said that leaving the radio on was a drag on the battery. The other could care less. He left the radio constantly running believing that newer cars were up to the task. Who was right?

One man was a stickler for cleaning. Bathroom vents were vacuumed and washed at least monthly. The floors and baseboards were mopped weekly. Everything had to be in its place. When I was working, I felt my whole life orbited around his high expectations.

"The Dance" 11 x 14 pastel, matted and ready to frame

“The Dance” 11 x 14 pastel, matted and ready to frame

Another spouse was super casual. He could care less if I made the bed each day. He was relaxed and laidback, but then things that were in need of repair were put off. The bathroom vents were seldom touched. I found myself missing the spotless appearance of before, but happy that someone wasn’t constantly on my back.

The problem for me was that each husband expected me to comply and follow suit with his ways and wishes. If I did something my way or the way of “those who went before,” I was chastised and told, in no uncertain terms, how to do it the correct way.

All three couldn’t be right nor all three wrong. Ironically I taught my children to think independently. I told them there were several ways in which something could be accomplished. After showing them how I did something, I told them to find their own best way. They could do a chore anyway they wanted too as long as the end result met my expectations (a clean room).

I always felt a person was far more important than the things they owned or used. When we become myopic, and focus on habit and tradition over someone else’s feelings, we’re missing the whole point of bonding and forging close relationships.

When “It’s my way or the highway,” bitterness ensues. Marriage becomes a competition between two people who are at odds with each other. Cooperation is one thing, domineering is quite another. I remember the scalding reprimand I got when I cut too much off the top of a strawberry. I was told to use the point of the knife and scoop out the green leaf leaving the top of the fruit unscathed. This works well for one strawberry, but by the time you get through a box or a case you’re tired fingers turn the berries into mush.

Everything I learned in my home as a girl from my own dear mother was criticized and replaced by someone else’s means and methods. I was called wasteful by one spouse and too thrifty by another. My self-esteem floundered and I felt restricted and smothered. One abusive mate said I was the “worst woman’ he’d ever known,” and the other ignored me altogether; seldom smiled and never laughed at my jokes. It was like I spoke a foreign language.

When my current husband thought I was funny, understood what I was saying, and we started finishing each other’s sentences, I knew we had the essence of compatibility.

Once a woman breaks free – look out! My third husband caught the brunt of my former repression. Thank goodness he’s a patient man! We have good communication and he doesn’t feel threatened when I insist on doing things my own way as long as I allow him to do the same. It’s silly to waste time on trivial differences when there’s a whole world of exciting adventures to share.

A woman shouldn’t be treated (nor a man) as a doormat in order to make someone else feel powerful. Every person has the right to discover their own strengths and weaknesses. No one should have to endure demeaning or insulting remarks from someone who is supposed to “love and cherish” them. This goes for both parties! Physical and verbal abuse should never be tolerated. Your emotional wellbeing, perhaps your life is at stake! If you can’t get past it, if you can’t put a stop to it, get out!

"Kindred Spirits" 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

“Kindred Spirits” 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas