I’ve mentioned before that there are often days in which I struggle to focus on one thing to be thankful for, there are so many to choose from. The funny thing is that often the unrecognized gratitudes seem to start to bubble up and ferment in my brain. They blend with one another, share interesting connections, and create something even more beautiful to be thankful for.
Yesterday many of us paused to enjoy the eclipse. Gavin got to see it for his birthday so he was pretty pumped up. Our neighbors came over and joined Becky and the boys to enjoy the show. My experience was a little different as I was flying as it started. Due to a delay it looked like I was going to miss it, but I was happy for Gavin (and Becky & Dominic) and I was able to enjoy the picture of the boys sitting out in the sun seeing this phenomenon. My disappointment was displaced by my joy for my family’s joy.
As luck would have it the airplane touched down earlier than expected and as I walked out of the airport with luggage in hand I was able to catch it one minute before it hit the peak in OKC. It was awesome! As I paused for a moment I saw many people looking a little disappointed… I didn’t get it until I realized that they didn’t have the eclipse glasses so I started passing mine around to others. Seeing their smiles and awe inspired by nature put an even bigger smile on my face. It was pretty neat, there were many people all doing the same thing, all helping out their fellow man. We were all connected, all enjoying the same incredible light show that God was putting on for us.
Eventually I made my way to the cab and got in for my ride to Express HQ. The driver and I immediately started talking about how awesome the event was, how beautiful it was, and then we both just paused… a thought hit me like a ton of bricks and I immediately shared it with the driver.
“How awesome is it that right now, in this moment, we’re all one people enjoying something incredible, something so much bigger than us. Race, religion, politics, none of it matters to anyone at this moment. We’re all just people enjoying the presence of something greater than any and all of us… How awesome is this moment?”
We jumped into conversation and were immediately both on the same page. He started telling me about his grandson in Atlanta that wants to be an astronaut, I shared stories about my boys. We talked about family. We talked about our faiths. We talked about values. As we kept talking I just smiled, it was like I was talking to someone who could have been my dad. Nothing was off limits, we were openly sharing many things, helping each other, sharing joy. It was incredible and by far and away the best cab ride I’ve ever had.
On Facebook today the old video of Becky and I hiking on the glacier in Canada popped up from this date six years ago. During a break in training I put on my headphones and watched it. First I was awed by the size and beauty of what we had seen, then I was stopped in my tracks by the smiles on everyone’s face. Everyone was experiencing incredibly joy and happiness. We were a bunch of strangers all mixed together enjoying time and stories with each other all while taking in the presence of something bigger, greater, and more beautiful than ourselves. The best part is that about seven minutes in there is a smile that Becky flashes a couple of times as she turns to take it all in… and that’s the smile that I think of when I think of her at her most happy. It’s an incredible smile to behold and when my number’s punched that will without a doubt be the last image I see. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.
All of these thoughts started to blend and helped me start thinking about something. How awesome is it that the natural world can provide so much joy to so many through connecting us while humbling us? Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Maybe that’s why I love our nature based vacations so much, there’s this feeling of being completely humbled. In the bigger picture, with different perspective, I am but one of seven billion. I am here for but a flash compared to the Earth. I am tiny, small, and insignificant in that moment. I am humbled. To be clear, this isn’t some call for help or lack of confidence or anything like that, it’s purely a dose of reality that maybe I’m not as singularly important as I often think myself to be. My problems are bigger than anyone else’s, my successes are grander than anyone else’s… you get my drift. These experiences crush those thoughts so quickly.
The second half of why I enjoy vacations is the interconnectedness. In our humbled state while enjoying this beauty and greatness of the world around us we aren’t black or white, christian or muslim, male or female, better or lesser. We’re all the same. We’re all one of seven billion. We’re all human. I think of our vacations (especially in Banff due to the video) and realize that almost everyone on the trails were smiling. We were all experiencing great joy, and a lot of it had to do with how much more willing we were to talk with each other, start conversation, help each other see things we may have missed. We help each other, we enjoy nature with each other, and we are one. What a feeling!
As I wrap it up, I’m so thankful for the ability of nature to humble us, connect us, and create so much joy. If only I took more time to appreciate ALL of the awesomeness of nature around me maybe I’d be even more joyful all the time? Then, what if we all took the time to do the same? What a beautiful world that would be!