No Ordinary People
Walter Hooper met C.S. Lewis in Oxford, England at The Kilns in June of 1963. I met Walter Hooper this summer at that same place-The Kilns-C.S. Lewis's Oxford home. As a young man, Walter traveled across the pond to meet the author who had deeply influenced and inspired him. As a middle-aged woman, I, too, traveled across that same pond to study the author who had deeply influenced and inspired me. Yet, I received a treasure I never expected when I arrived...I met Walter Hooper!
At age 83, Walter Hooper is a gentleman in the truest sense. He is mannerly and articulate, charming and witty. A native North Carolinian now living in Oxford, England, he is soft-spoken and has the most delightful Southern accent-with a tinge of jolly old England mixed in!
I gathered with a group of fellow Lewis cronies at The Kilns in Oxford as part of the C.S. Lewis Summer Institute. We sipped tea and had the privilege of listening to Walter share so many stories about his time with Lewis.
So much about this man struck me. He knew Lewis personally, he knew Lewis's works intimately, he was a friend to Warnie, Lewis's brother, and to several of "The Inklings." I could go on and on. But, after listening to this lovely man share story after story, what struck me in my deep place was his deference. For over 40 years, Walter has dedicated himself to preserving and promoting C.S. Lewis's work as a literary executor and trustee for the estate of C.S. Lewis. He has edited about 30 pieces of Lewis's work posthumously. I'm convinced many people might not even know C.S. Lewis as well as they do if not for Walter's work and loyalty. Yet, I bet most people don't even know the name "Walter Hooper." As he shared, he showed such genuine affection for Lewis and everything he said was uttered with respect. As our group gathered around him, riveted by each word he spoke, he sought no praise, nor did he solicit interest in himself. It was as if he received personal satisfaction as he generously shared stories and insights (many of which I am certain he was sharing for the millionth time), just to make us love Jack as much as he did. But, I don't think his deference was solely that of an admirer. It was as if Walter saw the value in a life-in Lewis's life and in each life. Maybe he really took to heart what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory:
There are no "ordinary" people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals that we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendours...
Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
I don't think Walter saw Lewis as extraordinary solely because he had a brilliant mind. I think he saw him as extraordinary because he was a man within whom the glory of God dwelt. He deferred to him not because he was a world famous author, but because he saw him as "the holiest thing presented to his senses." And honestly, that's how Walter made me feel, too.
There are no ordinary people. I'm not one, you're not one, Lewis wasn't one and Walter isn't one, either.
So, let us "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of us regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)
So, how do you perceive the people in your world? Ordinary? Extraordinary? Could you begin to look for the divine--the immortal--in the "ordinary" people you see?
What if your spouse, your child or your most annoying relationship was really the "holiest object presented to your senses" today? How might you treat them differently?
Well, that's what's been percolating in me lately.