I arrived home late last night from a family vacation to Boston and Canada. I’ll fill you in on that trip in upcoming entries, but for now, I want to focus on something that happened not on the trip, but as a result of it.
I got up, worked from home on the emails and calls that inevitably accumulate during one’s absence, and then around noon I took a walk with my wife and our dog.
We strolled the mile or so up to a nearby store. While my wife picked up a few groceries, I waited outside with the dog on a beautiful, sunny day. Other than the weather, nothing about the store or the parking lot or anything else around us had changed.
Yet as I sat there, I felt an intense appreciation for something that I normally flee, something that encompasses me daily yet hides in plain site. I became aware of the wonder of the ordinary.
Normally, I’d be antsy to go, get back, get things done. But being away helped me to be present and to see that familiar place with renewed gratitude. I began to value what surrounds me every day yet goes unnoticed just as often.
I was reminded of a cartoon that Ronald Rolheiser describes in his excellent book, The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering the Felt Presence of God. The cartoon is an old one, “Hi and Lois,” but one as relevant today as ever.
In the first frame, Hi, the father, is off to work as an accountant. You see him thinking, “Another dumb day going to that same dumb office, to work on those same dumb numbers that I must have worked on a thousand times before.”
In the next frame you see the mom, Lois, cleaning the house and thinking, “Another dumb day cleaning this same old house again.”
In the third frame, the older children ride on the school bus and say to each other, “Another dumb day going to the same dumb school, with the same dumb teachers, working on the same dumb stuff we’ve been working on for a thousand days already!”
Finally, the last frame shows Trixie, their two-year-old standing in her crib, arms raised, facing the sun, joyfully crying out, “Another day!”
Today, as a result of being away from home, I was able to see home and the world around me a bit more as Trixie does. Having experienced the extraordinary of a new place, I was able to come back and appreciate the ordinary in a whole new way. Or maybe a whole old way. I’m not sure.
But I do know that for the first time in a long while, I grasped something that slips by me almost every other day:
In God’s world, there is no such thing as an “ordinary” day.