Silent Blessings: Honoring the Mundane and the MemorableOct 24, 2023
On the dresser in my bedroom, next to the perfume bottles and the black-and-white picture of my mother as a sophomore at University of Mississippi, I have a pottery jar with “blessings” stamped on it. It contains bits of paper on which I jot down reminders of what matters to me.
These moments of joy—instances when I believe with certainty that there is a rhyme and reason to it all—range from “Quay snoring” to “afternoon on Alison’s porch.” I don’t need details to recapture the contentment that watching my dog sleep or catching up with a childhood friend afford me. A few words are enough to bring back the scene and the emotion. When I opened the jar recently, “couple dancing in courtyard” fell out. And there I was.
One day while eating lunch on the Vanderbilt University campus, where I attended graduate school, I watched a young man and woman put down their backpacks on a weathered, wooden bench, walk to the center of the grassy area outside the refectory, and begin to dance. They did not speak. Instead, in a graceful display of silent partnership, they came together and fell away, came together and fell away. All the while, they were smiling. After several minutes, they picked up their belongings and walked to class, perhaps, or the student union. Where they were headed, I have no idea, but I know what they left behind: a memory.
When I was in high school in the late 1970s, I served as an officer of a social organization that held a formal dance each year. Wallflower that I was, I wasn’t brave enough to invite a boy as my escort.
“Isn’t there a classmate you might ask?” said my mother, eyeing me with a look that made me think she pitied me.
“No ma’am,” I said. “No one.”
“Well, then,” she said after a long sigh, “I guess your father will have to go with you.”
It might sound pathetic to some, a daughter relying on her father to take her to the country club, but Daddy wore his tux, I got a new dress, and we had a great time together. I have a snapshot to prove it. As I enjoyed flitting around as hostess, he chatted with the parent chaperones. As my hostess duties wound down, my father asked me to dance.
I’m not all that graceful and have in fact been labeled as a gal who dances “like no one is watching.” But my father led, and I followed, and we came together and fell away, came together and fell away.
The couple in the courtyard did more than make me smile during my lunch hour. They reminded me what life can be about if we let it: Finding joy on a daily basis, even if for a few brief minutes. Noticing the remarkable while you’re eating tuna salad and drinking iced tea by yourself. Taking time to honor what we hold dear, whatever—and whomever—that may be.
And who’s to say I won’t come upon another example of all that’s good and unexpected in life on my way to work tomorrow? Surely there are more dancing strangers out there, worthy of attention. You just have to be willing to see.
—Amy Lyles Wilson, Writer, Spiritual Director, and Wisdom Tree Collective Instructor
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