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There ain’t no such thing as ‘normal’

by By Doug Chastain, Random Thoughts | August 16, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

I was talking with some kin folks last weekend about our family history when I was made aware of an incident that left me horrified. It seems an ancestor of mine, who shall remain nameless, was involved in an act of domestic violence that could have left him in jail for an extended period of time. I had always thought this particular ancestor was honorable and acted with integrity. Apparently, I was mistaken.

Now let me make a full disclosure here: I have another ancestor who, during the Civil War, apparently fired on a Union infantry column from concealment. That's right. This 60-plus-year-old preacher was trying to ambush Union soldiers. Or, I should say, one Union soldier. It seems this particular ancestor had a personal grievance with the Union commander of the column, and was shooting at him. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, the soldier riding the commander's horse that day wasn't the commander. The soldier riding the commander's horse was shot out of the saddle, and then the eagle-eyed sniper who was my ancestor was shot multiple times, and then bayonetted for his trouble. And he tainted a life of decency and virtue in one senseless act of desperation and vengeance.

Needless to say, I seem to have a family history that includes a few, uhm, anger management issues.

When I was growing up, I always aspired to be the leader of a "normal" family when I got married. I would have a normal wife and normal children. I would live in a normal neighborhood in a normal city. I would drive a normal car to my normal job and interact with my normal friends. I would attend a normal church filled with normal Christians who thought, and talked and acted just like me.

I would live a normal life.

As I have gotten older, especially lately, I have come to an explicit and inescapable conclusion: there ain't no such thing as "normal."

As I have studied my family history, I have found unique individuals that had some characteristics that were endearing and appealing. And in those same individuals I have found characteristics that were disagreeable and sometimes just downright awful. And I am at a loss as to how to evaluate those individuals in a comprehensive way. But one thing I am sure of: none of those individuals is anywhere close to what I would call "normal."

(At this point I'm not even sure what "normal" is.)

But then I think about my life, and things get a little clearer. There have been seasons of my life in which I'm pretty sure my behavior has been endearing and appealing. But I know for sure there have been other times in my life when my behavior has been disagreeable and, yes, downright awful. And it occurs to me that I'm not a lot different than my infamous forebears. Now, I haven't killed or assaulted anybody, but I wonder sometimes what the triggers would be that would cause me to do so, and whether I could resist the temptation.

And that brings me the conclusion of the matter. We are all – all of us – unique individuals, with strengths and with flaws, with some characteristics that attract others and some that repel. But at the same time, we are all made in the image of God, with infinite worth and definite purpose. And, if for only that reason alone, we should cut each other some slack, and try to be more tolerant and friendly.

And before you're tempted to harshly judge someone else, look in a mirror.

Doug Chastain is a retired teacher and is currently transportation specialist for the Siloam Springs School District. (Okay, he drives a bus.) He is also a grass maintenance technician at Camp Siloam. (Yeah, he mows the lawn.) You can contact him at dougchas[email protected] . The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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