There are many wonderful events that take place at my daughter’s preschool, and a “s’mores and songs” night last week was one of the more recent (and delicious). At the close of the evening, the teachers led first the children, and then everyone else, in a rendition of the old Shaker song, Simple Gifts.
As I sat in a circle of parents, students and siblings, singing along to the parts of the song I knew, I was reminded of a phone call, earlier in the day, from my sister. She called to tell me about a play she had seen the night before, describing how, after its surprisingly touching ending, she felt a heightened awareness of human connections all around her.
She noticed a younger man holding his elderly father’s hand, gently helping him off the curb and into the car. She saw a mother laughing with her adult, special needs child, their arms around each other as they walked away from the theater. Recalling these scenes to me, she started crying at how touched she had been by the love she saw, simple gestures and moments that happen all the time but usually go unnoticed. She started laughing too, at her tears, but I saw her point, and sitting in the circle of singing families, I understood it even more.
The smallest of connections, ones that happen every day – a cheerful exchange with a stranger, the extra step that didn’t have to be taken, even something as simple as adding your voice to another’s song – these small, unassuming moments are enormous gifts we give to ourselves, and to one another.
I may have laughed with my sister about how easily she burst into tears during our conversation, but in truth, there was nothing silly about how she felt. We tend to pride ourselves on what we consider our big accomplishments – getting a promotion, running a marathon, earning that degree – but we overlook the day to day moments that, when we pay attention to them, are both examples and reminders of the importance of showing love and making connections with those around us.
What We Take
Take time out today to acknowledge those connections. Let yourself feel good about the door you held open, the neighbor you laughed with, the bitter or angry words you chose not to give voice to, and instead let go.
These may not seem like big accomplishments, but they are vital to having a healthy mind, a healthy outlook and healthy relationships.
Who in your life gives you the simple gifts of love, of humor, of understanding? How? I myself take enormous amounts of these everyday gifts for granted, even though I try not to. Living with and loving other people becomes commonplace; we do it day in and day out and because of this routine, we forget to acknowledge the beauty of the connections we have.
Think about the people you see each day, and what things they do or say that you hear and see so often that you forget to be thankful for. Be thankful for these small, simple gifts.
What We Give
Be thankful for your own hard work as well. As a parent, I know how much of my effort goes unnoticed by my children. It’s okay, of course, their healthy growth and development reflects my work, but sometimes I have to take time out to acknowledge the love and care I give them.
That’s important too, especially for people who put in the extra effort day in and day out – people caring for the elderly, the sick, for children who have higher needs than others. Take time out to recognize the importance of each minute you give love, you laugh, you work. The hand held out to steady another, the deep breath taken so you can continue to help. These are simple gifts to others and to yourself. Simple as they are, they are the best gifts we can give and receive.