My Claim to “Fame”

I really like anonymity, preferring to keep a low profile.  From early grade school I recall the fear of standing out, recalling how in the first grade I “threw” a spelling bee deliberately when I was one of the last two standing lest I should win.  Abraham Maslow wrote of the fear of standing out from the herd, the fear that the head standing taller than the rest is the one most likely to be chopped off.  Of course, I know realize that this motif in my life is not as humble as I used to think it was, but merely a muted expression of an inordinate desire to be “king of the mountain.”  Once again I acknowledge one of the many, many conflicts that rage within my heart and constitute the person I am, the persona of which you see here as “literarylew.”

But, I really like being “small-fry” and I increasingly realize just how important we “small-fry” are in the world.  Not long before I left Arkansas in February, one of the men I in my church that I was very close to, casually commended me for the good job I did as part of the “infrastructure” of the church.  Now this was a large church, full of successful and prominent people in the community, and you can’t imagine just how “small” I was in that infrastructure.  But I recognized that he had described my role there and I was very pleased with it and am currently looking for some place in the infrastructure of my new community, be it in a church or elsewhere.

On this note, I wish to share a beautiful poem by Naomi Shihab Nye about the importance of what I am calling “small fry” people like myself:


The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

—Naomi Shihab Nye




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