I have been trying of late to open myself up to what shows up for me when I pay attention. I am coming to find that often the very best surprises can be rather tiny and inconspicuous, or partially hidden, or just unusual and perhaps even a bit out of place. Take for instance this tiny, but vibrantly colored, startlingly red berries I happened to notice on one of my hikes this past Fall. I almost stepped on them!
They were tucked away, just peeking out from under the blanket of autumn leaves in my path. I was stopped my tracks, .. I left of kicking through the leaves, .. I was struck by how this tiny splash of cherry-red cheer, lying amid the autumn decay, could just take my breath away. It was like this berry wise bunch was shouting to me -"Watch out! If you go too quickly or carelessly you could miss something - something important, something beautiful, something that could change your way of seeing life, if you let it." For that tiny clump of drying red berries opened my eyes and my heart that day, to be more aware of the tiny surprises Life has in store for us at every turn, when we least expect it ... those hidden treasures, ... those joys, those things that need to be noticed.
Like branches filled with berries and blossoms, in the desolation of late autumn. Or a Praying Mantis right on the boardwalk trail in Maryland, ... or the Deer Paths that become so visible, almost popping out at me, the only things dusted with snow in an unusually snowless winter landscape. Like throwing dust in the air to see it settled on lustrous strands of spider silk, unveiling the intricate design of the spider's hard work .. art work, I am so intrigued by these lacy white trails that are revealed in such a highlighted way by the winter's sparse snowfall - evidence of a whole network of roads used by the quieter inhabitants of this wilderness park. I feel honored and privileged to be witness to this discrete system, and wonder where it would take me if I explored. It makes me think of the countless pathways that quietly offer themselves up to us, at various times in our lives. How many such trails do we really notice? Where might we be able to travel if we opened our eyes and hearts more to such avenues of possibility?
And then I am reminded of how this paying attention shows up amidst interactions among people. Just yesterday, while going about my day's particularly enjoyable work of hosting homeless families overnight for the week at our church, I had just returned from a grocery run. I put some dessert goodies for the guests to include in the lunches they were packing, when one of the moms said, very sincerely and emphatically, "Thank You." A few minutes later she returned to again make sure I received her very heartfelt "Thank You. We really appreciate what you offer to us." Now, that is just not something I expect to hear. I know our guests are grateful for whatever kindness comes their way, but with their extremely stressful struggle for survival, I just don't expect them to be very expressive of these types of thoughts. They are just too weary from trying to live and provide some semblance of normalcy for their families. I was overwhelmed. Then watching how incredibly compassionate my volunteer coordinator is in her interactions with our guests, always treating them with the utmost dignity, even to the point of affording them the respect inherent in expecting them to accomplish the small responsibilities involved with being a parent, a guest, a human being. To watch her exuberant exclamation when describing her joy at her own son's enthusiastic anticipation of getting to come and play with the guests children, as he has sometimes reluctantly done in the past. And to hear one of the evening's dinner cooks remark to one of the guest mothers about how wonderfully her infant was developing, how well the infant's eyes tracked the movements of people around it -to have taken the time to notice and comment. The way young high school boys play so rambunctiously with the boys staying with us for the night - boys being regular, ordinary boys, together. Then there is the attention to detail of the very dedicated women organizing the fun activities for the children; the focused and welcoming chatter of volunteer hosts and our guests chattering companionably at dinner... These are all the little things that I noticed just in one day at my job. These are little things that need to be seen, that matter. These are the little surprises and treasured moments that make a world of difference in the lives of people who are often made to feel that they do not matter. These are the glimpses I get of the sacredness of life, the gift of human compassion, and the rightness of priorities lived out with commitment, making life and our world a better place. This makes me smile.What are the "Little Moments" - surprises, treasures, reminders about what really matters - that you see in your life? How could paying attention to what shows up for you in your day to day living make a difference in your life?