The other day, through a series of frightening one-lane roads with lorries taking up the entirety of them, I found myself in the pastural beauty of Beatrix Potter land— in the Lake District of North West England. Amid young calves running down hillsides, lambs prancing in the meadow, yes, even rabbits hurrying across the road, a message written on a wall quoted Beatrix: “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and find they were the big things”.
There were so many things, in this one day, that I was enjoying. Starting with drizzly rain punctuated with sun breaks, being able to walk along woodland paths and then finding an old castle ruin around the corner. In fact, these were not the usual things of my daily life, and I didn’t consider any of them small things. I don’t usually begin the day with a piece of toast and lemon curd. (Though I decided I might have to start).
This week, we’d had many opportunities for adventures. Like finding leftover coins in the pocket of an old jacket purchased from a hidden attic store. Then meeting someone new while out walking, admiring their 300 year old home, and finding out they will have to move from this place they love to care for their ailing mother. We took a little time to commiserate about the difficulties of caregiving, and the gifts that are gained, and the things that are lost. She commented, “You were meant to walk by here”. And all the people sitting in the ancient stone neighborhood cafe, captivated in the smallish moments of a midday meal; visiting with each other while savoring sandwiches, biscuits and chocolate in various forms— these little things were being fully enjoyed.
Yet it would be naive and foolish to think that we have only these special moments; there are sad and painful moments— all a part of the little things that grow into the “big things”. Perhaps this is what makes our day to day life meaningful. I know along with unhappy moments, the mundane and monotonous also impacts our day— and not every day holds such a variety of experiences, nor are they lovely ones. For some, even getting out of the home is more than can be expected in a day. I remember my patient, Gary, no longer able to get out of his bed, experiencing desolation in the tedious hours of each day stretching out endlessly. Still, he found a way to enjoy even those days. He took paper and drew pictures and names of people he knew, while he remembered past times together, thought and prayed for them, and hung the papers on the walls of his bedroom. When he died, most of the room was wall-papered in Gary’s mindfulness.
I understand that life presents us with the insurmountable “big things” that can easily overshadow the small things. And one might want to scream about the big things, yearn for the simplicity of the small things, and perhaps miss Beatrix’s point. It is indeed these moments gathered together that make up the day, and each new day is in reality a big thing.
Thanks, Amy! Powerful, little thoughts, which together can point to the bigger picture of hope in one’s life. I will be pondering through the small moments of today your brief yet profound account of “Gary’s mindfulness.” Shalom on this Rosh Hashonah new year.