I have been planning to write an article entitled “All the Little Things” for a couple weeks now, gathering little tidbits to include as evidence in support of my strong belief that the simple pleasures and small acts are really the big things in life that have the power to make a happy person. Because we are of the generation and age to be distracted by the information at our fingertips and the future for which we are preparing, I think it’s particularly difficult to be present and aware of what’s happening where we are, but all the more rewarding when we do.
I was going to write about little acts of kindness, humor and solidarity among strangers and friends, the simple coincidences and idiosyncrasies that make things interesting and entertaining, the beauty and artistry all around that you can find if you take a second to let it in. Deep conversations with your roommates, a really good cup of coffee, someone holding the door for you when you’re 50 yards away, prompting you to sprint so as not to make them wait. A great song coming on at the perfect time (the iPod Shuffle Gods do exist), your random core class tying in with themes from your favorite major class, the first few steps of a run (and the last few).
I would probably have gone on for a bit about a few of my favorite things, and referred you to a spoken poem by Steve Roggenbuck that would knock your socks off (I’m still going to do that, it’s awesome). But last week, someone said “Always pay attention, there is no such thing as a coincidence.” So I’d like to write about all the things that coincided, turning my day into an inspiring one.
It was quite a day, one that effectively eliminated the need to continue collecting tidbits of little things because a collage of inspiration arrived pre-assembled in the form of a strangely cohesive Thursday. I was having one of those wonderful mornings where I got up early and woke up slowly, scrambled up a good, healthy breakfast and drank Italian roast coffee out of my favorite cup at the kitchen table.
I was reading Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master for my Religious Quest class with Professor John McDargh, and was smiling at a line about Merton being grateful to be in college with great friendships to “rescue us from the confusion.” I thought of the six-person hug that had occurred in the middle of our mod the night before and the recent conversations with friends that I considered as enlightening as class.
I walked to Cushing with my headphones on and beamed at the sunny day, enjoying the song “Indigo Home” whose lyrics would reverberate through my wandering thoughts, and arrived in Strategic Management ready to share my good mood.
In my 1:30 Religious Quest class, Professor McDargh asked us to think of a word for an opening “Centering Prayer” that represented both letting complications fall away and being open to new ideas and inspirations. My thoughts went to my roommates, their different fields of study, the conversations we often have that release us from the stresses of the week and broaden our perspectives. The word I chose was “home.”
A lyric from that morning’s song, I realized, was “If you give love and live long, then you’ll always have a home.”
Later in the day, a good friend of mine invited me to a prayer service in St. Ignatius in support of the Campus School remaining on BC’s campus. The little lights distributed when we walked in dotted the pews throughout the beautiful service and illuminated the simple gestures of love and patience that parents and siblings extended unceasingly to their Campus School students. Volunteers, teachers, physical therapists, parents and faculty spoke, all offering the most heartwarming stories of their experience with the Campus School.
I was moved by how many of these speakers walked into Campion intending to be men and women for others, unaware of how acutely and directly the others would turn out to be men and women for them. They all spoke of how much the little things meant to these students, how greatly the smallest gestures from the students could affect the faculty and volunteers, and how clear the notion of embracing the simple pleasures and living in the present becomes around the Campus School.
At the end of the service, the Campus School volunteers handed out a little card with a Leo Buscaglia quote that must not have been a coincidence: “Never underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring. All have the potential to turn a life around.”
The song I listened to in the morning asked, “Are you lost in paradise, my love, or have you found a home?” Professor McDargh once compared our ‘BC bubble’ to a sort of paradise of beautiful 18 to 24-year-olds where you might not see anyone of any other demographic. He noted that Campion and the Campus School are the exception to this rule; where appreciation for the little things runs high, and many of the speakers recognized that they had been lost in this “paradise” until finding a home at the Campus School.
The same way I thought of the word ‘home’ during our Centering Prayer in class, the people at this prayer service had all found, in some way, a home at the Campus School. I was so pleased to be surrounded by so many who so clearly understood what it meant to find beauty and happiness where others might only see ordinary.