Thursday, June 29, 2017

Small Delights

Yesterday I sat at a stop sign, waiting for an opening in traffic so I could pull onto a busy road. As I was checking to the left, I saw movement closer to me. It was a sparrow, flying-hopping up to a seed head of crabgrass, raking the seeds off, then settling on the pavement below to eat what it had harvested. I stopped watching the traffic and instead watched the busy bird until a car pulled up behind me. It was a small delight, a breath of joy breathed into my day.

Later, I was walking across a shopping center parking lot when I saw a dragonfly. I stopped, (safely out of traffic) and simply watched its flight--hovering, then moving, then hovering—until it finally flew out of sight. It was another small delight, and I felt the breath of joy I had felt upon seeing the sparrow earlier.

On a recent walk, I found a petunia growing out of a sidewalk crack. There were no other petunias around, so I suppose this one sprouted from a seed that waited through the winter for its chance to germinate and grow. Its determination and patience brought a smile to my face—yet another small delight.

In a world where we seem to crave the constant stimulation of big, splashy and dramatic events, people and things, I relish these small examples of grace and life. Saint Thèresé of Lisieux had such an appreciation of small things. She said this, speaking of the different flowers—roses and lilies, contrasted with the more common daisies and violets: I saw that if all these lesser blooms wanted to be roses instead, nature would lose the gaiety of her springtide dress—there would be no little flowers to make a pattern over the countryside.

I believe that an appreciation for small things helps us to be more aware of the presence of God in all of life. It also invites us to a more permeating discipleship because we know the significance that the smallest act can have for the world as a whole. When we delight in the small, we are more likely to do the small things that, added together, make a big difference—picking up a piece of trash off the sidewalk, feeding the birds, acknowledging a homeless person by looking them in the eyes and speaking to them.

Thèresé described her mission in life as simply “to make Love loved.” To make Love loved opens us up to an appreciation of the small and simple in life. I would argue that it is more significant than a large, showy mission because it is purged of any pride, any desire for recognition or attention and is thus pure and holy.

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