Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Little Things

Awhile back after a string of depressingly rainy days inside with the kiddos, I'd had enough. I told them we were going on a "rain walk." They got out umbrellas and old clothes and away we went. We walked up by the school and splashed in puddles. We ran across the fields, mouths open, singing like we were in The Sound of Music. We got back home soggy, muddy, and a little chilled. The whole thing took less than a half hour, cost nothing, and the kids are still talking about it.

The other morning I looked out at our kind of busy street and really saw it for a second. I saw the brilliance of orange and yellow leaves...not just the construction sign indicating another day of the guys digging and blocking traffic. I saw the way the wind took the leaves for a moment and they did a brilliant dance before landing beneath the cars that always back up almost to our house during rush hour. I knew we needed to do something a little different, so after dropping off Anna at school, Ethan and I got on our sweatshirts.

"We're going on a fall walk!" I announced, heating up water in the tea kettle. Five minutes later, we had cups of cocoa and were sitting on the front steps before heading out. Ethan's lips turned chocolate-mustached. The wind was blowing. Whatever mild weather we'd had the day before was decidedly gone. Down the sidewalk, Ethan kept trying to walk backwards so he could see the stoplight turn from red to green. The guys were working again, blocking the streets with cones. The backhoe was beeping.

As we kicked at leaves I watched the battle play out in front of me...that fight to see the beauty vs. the mundane, the contrast between seeing and seeing.

I could look at the truck or I could look at the leaves turned a perfect hue of gold and red.

I could look at all that brings me down and awakens the blahs or I could breathe thanks for the littlest things.
Whenever I am stunned out of a negative stupor by something as simple as the feeling of a warm mug on chilled hands, I'm reminded again how important these simple joys really are. I am sobered by not only how much I may be missing when I'm having an off day...but how much I may be missing giving.

Maybe the library clerk needed someone to smile and ask how they were doing.

Maybe a friend needed just a few words of comfort on a rough day.

Maybe I needed to stop rushing and hold the door for someone who is convinced no one is polite anymore.

Maybe the obnoxious driver needed me to let them cut in front of me without incident, just because we all need mercy sometimes.

I will always, always remember this:

Back when I was in eighth grade, I had a pretty friend. I was not so much so, with my big perm and lack of make-up skills and overall nerdliness. I guess it was not so much that I was a bookworm (nothing wrong with that!) but also that I tended to be oversensitive and insecure, the type that cried easily and turned people off sometimes.

One night this friend and I were helping set up for an event to take place at our church the next day -- some sort of carnival our youth group was holding to raise money for something. I remember painting signs. I remember the woman helping us: Denise, an attractive, outgoing black woman who had a big smile and often volunteered for church events. She drove us home that night, and while nothing in particular had set me off that evening, I remember feeling as I always did. Slightly inadequate; goofy. My friend was going to go to modeling school. My friend chatted more easily with adults. Denise pulled up to the apartment complex where my friend and I both lived, and my friend climbed out first. Just as I was leaving, Denise leaned over for just a moment and said in a voice meant for only me to hear, these four little words: "You are so beautiful."

I tried to hide tears in the darkness as I walked up to my front door. At first I wondered what she had seen in me. Then I realized she must have seen something. And for years after that, as I stumbled through adolesence and mean kids at school and tears in the bathroom over cruel, heartless words by unthinking classmates, I always had those words to remember.

The little things do matter.

This is what I have to remember, on those days I only want to drown in me and all of my mental stuff.

And, all these years later:

Thank you, Denise.

Ethan found quite possibly the ugliest leaf on
our walk - but it was pretty to him.


Annie said...

What a lovely post. It is amazing how we have living proof that the littlest thing can make such a big difference, but we forget in our day-to-day lives. Thanks for reminding me! <3

Smithsholidayroad said...

Beautiful post, thankyou for sharing. Those Autumn leaves are beautiful xx

Deenie said...

I tend to be a fast reader; especially when I know I have a lot of blog posts to catch up on. But with this post ... I.Read.Every.Single.Word and let each one marinate. Thanks.

Deb said...

Thanks for the feedback and thanks for reading!