When my wife and I moved into our home this summer, we quickly had to come up with a new daily route to walk our pup. Walking for her is part of our daily routine so we promptly started roaming the neighborhood. As we tried several different routes and started getting one established, I frequently saw a young Hispanic man, approximately in his early 20’s walking what seems to be several miles. Often, we would pass him twice within our 1.5 mile route. He appeared to be out there for hours doing a slow steady walk with a 2 lb. weight in each hand. He was so quiet at first. Many times, we would pass one another on the sidewalk without even a hello, which was just…awkward. Other times, I would greet him but would only get an halfhearted “Hi” in response. Being new to the area, I’ll admit it wasn’t exactly the best first impression our neighborhood’s friendliness factor.
But then, within a few months time, something shifted. Fall time came and with it, football season. Suddenly this young man lit up like a light bulb inside. Clearly an avid Bronco’s fan, every time I would see him, he would have an enthusiastic comment ready. On the days following a win, I would get an excited, “Did you see the game? We won!” followed by statistics on where next week’s game would be held, who got injured or what his favorite play was. At times I couldn’t understand his broken English, but nonetheless, his excitement rang through loud and clear. Realizing over time that he seemed to have a bit of a intellectual disability, I worried what would happen when the (almost) inevitable moment would come that the Broncos would loose a game. But to my surprise, when that day did come, he simply said, “Oh well. We’ll win next week!” I smiled at his optimism.
Then after Christmas, I saw him proudly sporting a orange and blue set of Bronco mittens and a Bronco beanie. “Hey, I like your beanie!” I encouraged him. To which, he responded with his sweet child-likeness, “Yeah, I got them for Christmas!” Clear excitement was beaming on his face. It was in that moment that I was reminded of the simple joys and pleasures of life. How often in our ADD culture and success-driven society do we get wrapped up in our world of adult responsibility and forget to take time for those simple, quiet moments? So many opportunities for joy are missed merely because we are too busy to stop and acknowledge them. How much richer our lives could become if we would focus more on the “little thankfuls” in our life and less on the stress that comes from to-do lists.
My wife and I try to keep ourselves mindful of this in a practical way by using what we call our Blessings Jar. Each time something happens that feels like a little gift from God or we see an answer to prayer, we write it down, date it and put it in our Blessings Jar. Then, on Thanksgiving morning each year, we open it up and read through them to be reminded of all the times we’ve seen God’s presence evident throughout the year.
I’m saddened to say though, that the jar is often not near as full as I know it could be. So often I get so consumed in the mundane tasks of day to day life that I forget to pause and step away from them in order to notice the little things. But contentment doesn’t come in big, busy moments. When focused on success, we most likely we will always be chasing after the next big thing. Sadly, if that’s the case, no matter how much we achieve, I fear we’ll always come up feeling just a little empty, a little shy of goal and therefore will move on to chase after yet the next thing. Our life quickly then becomes like a merry-go-round, spinning in circles but never actually getting anywhere.
But, if we can find time for quiet moments, if we can find joy in the simple things, if we will take note of those “little thankfuls”, our lives will become so much richer, so much more fulfilling. In the little things of life is where true contentment lies.
And so I take a moment to quiet my soul and breathe this morning, reminding myself to find joy in the simple pleasures…like the beautiful blanket of snow currently keeping my whole family inside today, the comfort of a cup of hot tea next to the fireplace, the joy and contentment my puppies feel just to be near me, and yes, even a matching pair of mittens and a Bronco beanie.