I hear it in the voices of the children, the preoccupation with tomorrow. “I can’t wait until. . .” “I’m afraid that . . . “ “What if . . . ?"
I can’t blame them. The same preoccupation echoes through my own thoughts. It doesn’t seem to matter how perfect the present moment, my mind races on to the next, the shadowy questions of the future stealing the solid joy from the present.
The puppy that I didn’t want to bring to the beach becomes my teacher.
She trails the long rope behind her, her whole being intent on the one thing before her in that moment. A seagull lifts off. The puppy runs, her limbs, voice, heart all one in the intensity of her pursuit. She pounces fiercely on an abandoned clam shell, bats it this way and that, chews it furiously. Then she’s off and running again, straight through the tide pool, clumps of seaweed knotting themselves along the rope dragging behind her. Her failure to catch the gull, the tugging of the rope, none of this seems to diminish her enthusiasm for the gift of the present.
I bring my mind back to where my body is, watch the sparkles on the water, let my feet feel the warm ridges of sand beneath my soles. I give thanks.
There is gift in every moment. In every moment. This minute, this here and now, is the present. This is the place God gives himself to us.
And two small words become the key to receiving it. Receiving Him. Just these: "Thank you."
We watch all week, even the young ones with their cameras and journals, playing hide and seek, trying to find the gifts in the days. It comes hard, often, struggling against our habits of jealousy and fear, our worries that we're missing out on the best. I don't miss the irony of this inborn fear that drives us to seek something better, causing us to miss out on the already-given best.
"Thank you": these simplest of words, among the first that our parents teach us to say, seem to take a lifetime to learn to live. They grow with us, becoming words of faith, of believing that God really is good. They make space for us to live.
Counting the gifts:
- the breeze whispering through the long grass
- each step on the path raising clouds of tiny orange moths
- her lanky preteen body still snuggling up next to mine as I read a bedtime story aloud
- the sparkle in his eyes as he begs for yet another game of Phase Ten
- the white puppy digging deep in a bank of purple vetch
- her creativity with sea glass
- camera cards and journals filling with gratefulness
- wave after wave of love and mercy given