With our daughter sleeping peacefully in the baby carrier, my wife walks with me to the grocery store. We talk about the day, make plans for supper, and discuss how we want to spend the evening.
On the way, we walk by the train station and pass a woman who likes to sit at the entrance. Occasionally she asks for money, but most of the time she just says hello with a big smile. Today, she offers more than a hello.
“Awww, such a cute baby.”
My wife turns toward her to give the woman a better view of our daughter’s face. She grins at us. “You have a very special little girl.”
We thank her for the compliment and continue down the street. My wife turns to me and says, “I’m learning to give people their joy.”
Her statement makes me wonder.
What about me? Do I give people their joy? Most of the time I probably do. But not always.
a careless wind tosses
little grains of dust upon
what is beautiful
Over a pot of tea, I chat with a friend about my work.
“I love your writing,” she says. “It’s really great.”
I deflect her compliment.
“Oh. I’m still figuring it out… It could be better… Here are a bunch of reasons it isn’t good… Most of my ideas come from other people…”
I deny her the joy of showing appreciation for what she values. My comments may have some truth to them, and I may have a better view of the weaknesses of my work than my friend. But mitigating her compliment mitigates her gift. It mitigates her.
seeking what’s hidden
digging through the layered dirt
to find only dirt
“You must have used a roll of tape on this package,” I say. “For the effort required to open it, I bet it’s a great gift.”
The person who gave it smiles with anticipation as I struggle through the tape.
At last. I can open the box. I lift the lid and peek inside.
“How am I going to use this?” I wonder to myself. “Couldn’t they have gotten me something different?” Although I do not ask the questions out-loud, I might as well have. Despite my hurried “thank you”, it’s obvious what I’m thinking.
Gift giving can be a challenge. Figuring out what’s meaningful, useful and wanted is not easy. So on occasion, I’m going to receive something I don’t need or want.
Yet I deny them the joy of giving. Their thoughtfulness deserves appreciation. I don’t honor the time and energy they took to find the gift.
caught in a dust storm
i cannot see the person
standing beside me
I sit with a friend over dinner. He tells me all about his latest adventures. He’s excited about them.
“This happened. And then I had to do this. And then this other thing happened.”
But I’m not as interested. I don’t share his passion. Nodding in mock attention, I check my phone. I look at the time for the tenth time in two minutes. I gaze out the window.
I deny my friend the joy of sharing his excitement. By not listening, I forget the lessons of my grandfather and deny my friend value.
neglected by rain
the garden becomes but dust
i miss the flowers
I don’t mean to deny such joys. If I was paying more attention, I would probably be more considerate. But I’m not. I’m too caught up in my world to notice what’s going on around me.
It’s my loss. I miss the chance to be a blessing. I miss the opportunity to deepen a relationship. But most of all, I miss sharing their joy.
joyful rains arrive
wash away the dust which dims
the treasure’s luster
Such moments may appear, at first glance, small and insignificant. Yet sharing joy with another, as it bubbles up and clears away the gathered dust of life, is an opportunity to peer into the depths of their heart. For a brief time, you may see them as they are.
And they are magnificent.
PHOTO: Drops of joy. Evanston, IL.
PS: Nice job, mission one is complete. I hope you gained from it. Share your thougths and observations in the comments over here.