There are certain words which have been rendered virtually meaningless through over-use.
Take the word “awesome” for example. I was recently in a restaurant where I overheard a waitress ask a nearby patron how he was enjoying his eggs. His response? “These eggs are AWESOME!”
With delightful understatement the waitress replied, “Gee. They’re just eggs.”
How can we describe a glorious, radiant sunrise as “awesome” when the same word is now used with equal reverence to describe Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast?
Another word perilously close to being dumped onto the scrapheap of irrelevance is the word “ridiculous”. At one time this handy little term could be used to effectively describe the most inane, preposterous or utterly bizarre happenings in our lives and in our world.
In today’s world of entitlement we have hijacked this useful adjective, and have relegated it to reference the most trivial of personal inconveniences. And as a result, the word is close to being laughably inconsequential.
Case in point. Several months ago I found myself in a line-up several blocks long, waiting along with hundreds of others to renew my passport. News reports at the time had prepared us to expect waits of up to five hours or more, so it was that I arrived with a folding chair and a book and settled in for this half-day wait.
Soon, however, the relative tranquility of this otherwise uneventful morning was shattered by a rising chorus emanating from those both in front and behind me in line.
“Making us wait this long in line is RIDICULOUS!” bellowed one.
“Absolutely RIDICULOUS!” repeated another.
Soon the chant was being picked up by those up and down the line with Gregorian-like metre; “Ridiculous! Ridiculous!”
My enchantment with this rising chorus of indignation was broken when I noticed a reporter from a local newspaper asking the scowling mob in front of me what they felt about having to wait so long in this line. Their answer was as predictable as it was somehow sublime. “RIDICULOUS!” they huffed in unison.
Next the reporter turned and put the same question to me. “How do I feel about waiting in this line?” Unfortunately, what neither the reporter nor my enraged line-mates could know was that I had just returned from an eye-opening trip to South Africa, and my experiences there had irrevocably impacted my view of the world.
“25 million people are dying of AIDS in Africa,” I began. “That’s a big problem.” Then nodding towards the line up in front of me I added, “This line-up really isn’t a big problem.”
In sharing this story with you I’m not sure I even have a profound point to make. Except, perhaps to remind each of us that when we find ourselves using the word “ridiculous” to describe a traffic snarl, a flight delay, or even a change-resistant congregation, we might do well to consider a broader perspective. It may well be that there are others in the world whose plight is even more dire than our present irritations.
If we would all remember that…I think that would be just AWESOME!