“Normal” versus norms

wpid-img_3346.jpgMany people define “normal” as their daily experience, because that’s all they know.  What about you?  If you’ve had a broader experience than just one community, you probably know that one family’s “normal” can be completely different than another’s.  Of course, if we know and follow the Lord Jesus, what we’ve experienced in our families and communities is not nearly as important as who He is and the changes that He brings by His grace through His Spirit.

Before you read today’s article on a recent report by the World Health Organization, consider some of the following discussion prompts and Scriptures on spiritual health.

  • What brings health to our spirit? (Psalm 38, Proverbs 3:5-8, Matthew 6:22 and 9:12)
  • What brings sickness to our spirit? (Numbers 35:33, Proverbs 30:11-14, Ezra 9:11, James 1:21, 27 and 5:16)
  • In Mark 2:1-17, what specific hopes does the Lord provide as the Great Physician?


WHO reports 1.7 million children die annualy from pollutants and other environmental factors

“‘Normal’ versus norms” by Chaplain Jeff Dillard (7 March 2017)

Over one in four children under the age of five. According to a report released by the World Health Organization on 6 March 2017, that’s how many die around the globe each year because of polluted or unhealthy environments. The WHO named the most common threats as diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia, but also second-hand smoke, dirty water, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene as examples of pollutants that are killing our children. Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO said, “A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children. Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.” (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/pollution-child-death/en/)

Many of these risks could be eliminated by improving a few basics in their environment and educating local populations. Yes, much of the challenge is the financial cost to make the changes, but ignorance of the dangers is also a factor.  It can be impossible to see well water or secondhand smoke as a risk if it’s been your normal life, especially if you have no other norms for comparison.

I grew up in one of the poorer, less educated states in our country. Part of my normal was seeing both of my parents smoke until I was thirteen. That’s when Chuck was born. Like most children in America, my brother received the norm of tests, shots, and other precautions for his health. Then the doctors diagnosed him with cystic fibrosis, a defective gene that causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. Back then, his life-expectancy was no more than 12-15 years. My parents gave up their normal for new norms. I never saw them even look at another cigarette. Two months later, the doctors said they had made a false diagnosis. We were relieved and furious. Still, my parents never smoked again. Just the thought of the risks has kept them clean since 1976.

What was normal for your house? Do you remember the first time you visited a home radically different than yours? I’ll never forget learning that one of my friends rarely ate vegetables yet daily digested their mother’s pornography throughout their house and his older siblings’ examples of drug abuse. That was his daily environment. And, based on what he told me later, that was commonplace for his extended family, too. Until he visited our home, he hadn’t experienced any different norms.

I’m not suggesting my family was perfect. All of us have personal and environmental demons. But we may not discern between our ‘normal’ and honorable norms until we experience the differences.

The first issue may be whether we want to know or not. Another memory from my childhood is a saying from the G.I. Joe cartoon, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” If we want to understand our ‘normal’ versus honorable norms, we may need to spend intentional time with others who are different. If we truly open our minds, we may learn a lot about our risks and our options.


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