The first day or two that we were on pilgrimage in Rome, the students were entering church after church with necks that craned heavenward. It was the natural response to the beautiful architecture that we were encountering. They took pictures galore, marveling over magnificent domes and intricate mosaics that adorned the walls. Our hearts were overflowing with beauty. My students from South Dakota were encountering some of the greatest artists the world has ever had to offer.
By day three, however, they were growing bored with the church after church schedule, regardless how beautiful they were. One of the girls that seemed quite invested in photography went from executing creative basilica photo shoots to nonchalantly sitting in a pew during a stop in another church.
“Isn’t it funny how quickly we get bored of all this beauty?” I asked her as I watched other students mill around aimlessly. “Yes!” she replied, perhaps noticing for the first time how much her response had changed to the loveliness around her.
And we spoke for a few minutes about how amazed we all were the first day and how quickly we were tired of what had been novel only a couple days before. My tiredness didn’t match the students’ expressions, but I did have to remind myself to keep looking at the churches with wonder and not simply let my eyes glaze over.
On the way back from my nephew’s baseball game, I attempted to distracted my niece and nephews by directing their attention to the sky. It was sunset and the streaming colors changed minute by minute. I pointed out the different colors and asked if they could see any others. As the minutes passed on our drive home, I would sporadically stop and ask what other colors they could see in the sky. They seemed intrigued by the way the colors would transform after only a short time. It was also neat to hear them come up with different names to describe the precise shade of color we were witnessing.
At one point, one of my nephews talked about how the sky was like a painting. Excited that they were no longer touching each other or complaining about being touched, I ran with this. We spoke about how God is like an artist and how he creates these beautiful paintings each day. They are never quite the same yet they greet us each morning and each evening. My second oldest nephew is a big fan of math, so I gave him a few math problems to conceptualize how many sunrises/sunsets God has made. He seemed a bit surprised to consider the thousands upon thousands of paintings God has blessed us with, just stretching back a couple of millennia.
Simple beauty is not lost on children, sometimes they (like us) just need to be directed to where they can see it. A few colors splattered on the vast prairie skies can be an opening to recognize the way God works in the midst of our lives. Whether or not I notice, God is pouring out His blessings upon me in new and varied ways each day. Sometimes noticing it requires fighting nephews and an evening drive home.