Kids are really good at living in the moment. It is what gives them the ability to swing from laughter to tears in a matter of seconds. They can have great joy eating an ice cream cone and then become distraught with five minutes in time out. Right now, right here is the most important thing for kids.
My niece is a prime example of both sides of this. I gave her a mermaid tail blanket for a belated Christmas present. She was enthused as she slipped it around her legs and then flopped along on the floor. Coming to me, she grabbed my legs and exclaimed, “I look exactly like a mermaid, Trish!” Contrast that scene with several weeks prior when she fought against the injustice of being forced to sit at the adult table while her two older brothers sat at a kid table. “Not fair!” she sobbed, pointing at her brothers, “They get to sit at the little table! No fair!” A few minutes later, having switched places with one semi-willing brother, she was more than content.
Adults can be similar, but we also are more prone to live in the past or the future. Sometimes we can forget that the present is all we really have.
Precious moments can slip away because they don’t come shrouded in the extraordinary. Everyday moments, ones that are ordinary yet give life beauty, are some of the most treasured once they have passed. I’ve heard it said that people often miss the ordinary moments when they lose people close to them. I have found that to be true in my life. My paternal grandfather died a few years ago and one of the things I miss most is giving him a hug before leaving his house and hearing him say, “Come again.”
While I have emphasized this before, I want to do so again because I forget to actually live it. I want to embrace more fully the present moment, the ordinary experiences that make up my life. The morning cup of coffee and conversation with a housemate on the day off school. My nephews and niece yelling, “Trish is here!” when I show up to my parents house for a meal. The joy in finishing a book. Laughter shared with my students over a comment one of them made. The warmth of the sun when I walk outside. The ordinary people who surround me at daily Mass as we all strive Heaven-ward. My dad responding to a text message with a text message. (Ok–that last one is still more of an extraordinary event!)
Beauty is found in the ordinary. In fact, I would argue that if we are unable to see the beauty and joy found in the ordinary, we will miss most of the extraordinary beauty as well. Just as being grateful opens us to acknowledge more things we can express gratitude for, seeing the beauty in the ordinary transforms ordinary moments into beautiful ones. Seeing and appreciating ordinary moments prepares our hearts to be more open and receptive to letting those ordinary moments change us.
The ordinary moments of Jesus living, praying, and working in Nazareth are what prepared Him for His ministry and His sacrifice on the cross. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus allowed the ordinary to daily shape them to follow God’s will. The Annunciation, the prophecies made at the presentation of Jesus in the temple, Joseph’s dream to flee to Egypt, and finding Jesus in the temple were all extraordinary events surrounded by thousands of ordinary moments. Their daily faithfulness was necessary for the grandiose moments to become reality.
The same is true with us. If we let them, the events of each day, mundane though they may be, can shape us into the saints this world desperately needs.