How to stay salty, in the very best way

You can grab a protest sign and march, but you can also make a difference in the ordinary moments of your every day life.

Michela Ravasio | Stocksy United

It’s hip to be salty again. That’s right, saltiness isn’t only for peg-legged sea captains any more! People all over this country are getting in on the act of making their voices heard. First there was the Women’s March a few weeks ago, which gathered in cities around the world, and then last weekend it was the March for Life, which happens in various cities, sometimes under different names, but mainly gathers in Washington D.C.

The concerns of the two groups converged in some ways—especially the desire to promote human rights—but diverged in others, such as the way human rights are defined. Even if one of the demonstrations was partly or wholly disagreeable to our individual viewpoints, it shows the strength of society that we tolerate free speech and haven’t given up trying to persuade each other to adopt our vision.

To be completely honest, my initial reaction to seeing a public demonstration is to wonder why everyone can’t just stay home and stop causing such a fuss. I’m more of a believer in making a difference by the way we treat those around us in small, everyday actions (I wrote about this a while back in “Want to change the world? Stay home.”). I always question what a one-time event will actually accomplish.

And I think this is what’s important to remember; that whatever value a public statement has, it’s only because it can be the beginning of a longer, harder process of making changes in our own daily lives.

But the demonstrators have the last laugh because, as you may have noticed, I’m writing about it right now, which means that at the very least they’ve been successful in starting a conversation. So even if I don’t care to make a posterboard sign (I can never think of anything clever enough, anyway) and march for my beliefs in the city square, I’m glad other people do it. Everyone deserves the chance to stand up and be heard.

On its own, a single event probably isn’t much of a difference-maker, but if it becomes the start of a longer conversation and begins to affect the way we think and act in daily life, there is tremendous value in it. And I think this is what’s important to remember; that whatever value a public statement has, it’s only because it can be the beginning of a longer, harder process of making changes in our own daily lives.

The people I admire most are the ones who are willing to put in the hard work, who are steadily faithful to their beliefs, not only in public but in private. Because these people are sometimes quieter, they often fly under the radar. They aren’t flashy. They don’t self-promote. They may not be salty, but in their own way they’re what we might call the “salt of the earth.”

“Salt of the earth” is an interesting phrase, because salt isn’t actually something that tastes good on its own. The poet Dante, for instance, uses salt in a negative way when he writes, “You shall find out how salt is the taste of another man’s bread.” The taste of salt, for Dante, is the taste of jealousy; it doesn’t sit well on the palate. There’s a reason Mary Poppins doesn’t extol the virtues of a spoonful of salt to help the medicine go down.

Ask any chef and he or she will tell you that without salt, a meal will fall flat.

Combine salt with other food, though, and it works miracles. A bland dish comes alive with the right amount of it. Salt brings out the best in food and allows us to better taste its natural flavors. Salt is indispensable to good food, but it never draws attention to itself. Instead, it helps us appreciate whatever it happens to be seasoning. Ask any chef and he or she will tell you that without salt, a meal will fall flat.

If we want to be the sort of people who others describe as “salt of the earth,” our focus won’t just be on the big, dramatic gestures such as public demonstrations, it will include daily attitudes and actions. The real change agent isn’t our ability to make a commotion, but our commitment to being faithful to our marriages, the challenging task of parenting, working hard at our jobs, and thinking of others first even in small matters.

You may or may not be the sort of person who is comfortable taking part in a public demonstration, but after the media attention dies down and the signs are recycled, we can all communicate our beliefs each and every day by the way we behave. This may not seem like such a big deal, and CNN or FOX will never cover it, but just like salt, our steady commitment is needed or the larger message will fall flat.

So if you need to be salty from time to time to make yourself heard, to join your voice with others, go ahead, but the rest of the time know that you can still be the salt of the earth every day, even without the protest sign.

Each week, Fr. Michael Rennier reflects on the Sunday Mass readings and pulls out a theme applicable to our daily lives. Today’s reflection is based on the Gospel for the 5th Sunday in ordinary time.

Fr. Michael Rennier
Fr. Michael Rennier
Fr. Michael Rennier graduated from Yale Divinity School and lives in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife and 5 children. He is an ordained Catholic priest through the Pastoral Provision for former Episcopal clergymen that was created by Pope St. John Paul II. He’s also a contributing editor at Dappled Things, a journal dedicated to the written and visual arts.

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