My neighbor brought me a bag of home-grown vegetables yesterday. “We’ve got more than we can eat,” he said, as he handed me a bag of tomatoes (slicing and cherry), squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. His bicycle basket filled with plastic grocery bags containing the bounty from his and his wife’s garden, he was pedaling up and down the street delivering not only vegetables but also neighborly goodwill.
Later, as I lined up the tomatoes on the windowsill (my neighbors had kindly included a note saying that the tomatoes might need to ripen a bit), a smile crept over my face, and a warm, full-hearted feeling washed over me. My neighbor’s small but significant gesture had reminded me of the good there is to be found in simple, thoughtful acts.
The older I get, the faster the world seems to spin. It seems we’re always busy, always rushing, often missing numerous opportunities for connecting with others in meaningful ways. My neighbor’s act of sharing, however, was evidence of him slowing down and thinking of his friends, taking the time to include a variety of veggies in each bag, and then bike through the neighborhood delivering them. It says a lot about who he is, even though—or maybe because—he probably didn’t think it was a big deal.
There’s a saying that it’s not that we don’t have time, it’s that we don’t make time, and I think this is true for most of us most of the time. It’s a matter of setting priorities. I recently read a book in which the author talked how she had had an epiphany of sorts and, as a result, had come to look at her world differently. She now sits at dinner with family and friends and thinks, “I will never be with these same people in exactly this way ever again.” And so she is more present and savors the experience. Now she looks at a stranger and thinks, “I will never see that person again.” And so she pays attention and really sees the person.
Like most people, I lament that there aren’t more hours in the day. It always feels like there’s too much to do and never enough time to tick everything off my list. But I’m trying to change my thinking. When I’m tempted to cut short a visit with my elderly neighbor so that I can go home and do the laundry, I try to remind myself that the laundry will be there later, but this opportunity to be with a friend might not. When the child around the corner wants to pet my dog, I stop for her, remembering how scared I was of dogs when I was a little girl and glad to be a part of reinforcing good feelings about dogs for another child.
Small gestures count. Little things have significance. Strung together like so many beads, they make up our lives, and the lives of those we encounter every day. We have the opportunity to choose–every day–how we will spend our days. Will we create a life of meaning or let our days rush by in a blur? Will we make memories or make excuses? I’m trying to slow down, to be more thoughtful, more aware, to savor the little moments. And I find that I catch myself smiling more these days, which I think is pretty cool. And a really good incentive to keep at it.