Many years ago I spent a year in Germany. Things have changed a lot, both here and there, since then. Yet some insights have never left me.
Someone told me then that they missed “the war time.” I was shocked. So much had been hellish then. “Why?” I asked him.
“Because we understood then the value of the small joy.” In the midst of so much horror and fear and misery, people found great pleasure in small things: a red candle lit on a bare table, a jar of berry jam untasted for years, tenderness in a passing touch, stars on a clear evening.
I know now that it needn’t take a war to give us the delight of “the small joy.” Those witnesses to the grandeur of life are always present. Are we present to them?
Thanks to our advertising culture and the affluence that many of us live in, we tend to demand only big pleasures—a cruise with mountains of food, endless music at our fingertips, closets full of beautiful clothes, the newest technological wonder. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these splendid enjoyments. That’s not the point.
The point is: where is our attention? What we pay attention to, especially if we attend with appreciation, will give us the delight we seek. It’s more about what’s going on within us, than what’s going on “out there.” We can take three moments to breathe and see the beauty in what is before us, especially the small, available things.
We all know this principle. But knowing it has no value unless we do it. So before rushing off to work, take two minutes to smile at the leaves on the bush by your door. Notice the pretty pattern in the bedspread while you make the bed. When you stack the dishwasher, be glad for the beauty of the crafts that resulted in your dishes.
None of these takes time. We needn’t make huge changes in what we do. We need only change how we notice. Remembering to attend can be challenging at first, but joy is everywhere if we look from the beauty of our own heart. Let’s not wait for a war to impel us to appreciate the small joy.