This is a short book - only 122 pages - and it is comprised of different short stories. Some I found particularly inspiring and relevant, while others were interesting but not as moving. I enjoyed the writing style of the author, and would enjoy reading other books he has written.
Some of the things I want to remember from the book include:
- A quote from Mahatma Gandhi: It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without heart.
- The heart knows much that the mind cannot see.
- Our lives are filled with....ordinary moments when the hidden beauty of life breaks into our everyday awareness like an unbidden shaft of light. It is a brush with a sacred, a near occasion of grace. Too often we are blind to these moments. We are busy with our daily obligations an too occupied with our comings and goings to surround our hearts with the quiet that is necessary to hear life's softer songs.
Taken on July 20, 2010.
- The Confucian philosopher Zou Shouyi said that we too often fail to recognize wisdom in those without talent, achievement, and fame. Jesus, in the Beatitudes, tells us to look to the meek, the poor in spirit, and the pure in heart. The Native Americans tell us to look at the elderly, because there lives have walked the long path toward wisdom.
They all are reminding us that traces of the sacred are everywhere before our eyes, and that our task, as surely as performing acts of worship, is to find these sacred moments, hallow them with our attention, and raise them up as a celebration of the mystery of life.
- You feel privileged that a child has chosen you as someone to value, and you know that your attention can help give shape to a life.
Taken on June 1, 2008.
- How little..do we understand of life's wondrous ways, and how hard it is to see the blessings in the shadows.
- Let the beauty we love be what we do. (Rumi)
Taken on August 24, 2010.
- We are known by the things that we love, and remembered for what we held dear.
Taken on April 24, 2012.
- What object that I take for granted will be the memory by which I will be known? What will [people] remember that I loved?
- Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward. (Leonardo Da Vinci)
- Our life is a work of art. We must seek always to be its artist.
- "I need to thank you. You have to let me thank you. It's all I have to give."
Towards the end of the book, there was a story that reminded me of the older people who I have loved in my life (like Dad, Mom, and my grandparents) and the ones with whom Sophia, Olivia, and I volunteer with at the nursing home.
Taken on April 29, 2009.
These are excerpts that made me pause and reflect:
- There is a wisdom that comes with age. The old have walked the path we tread. They have seen the landscape through which we are traveling. They have felt our passions and known our dreams, though perhaps in different shapes and in different measure. In their eyes we can see our future. In our eyes they can see their past. In some fundamental way, they know the place where we are going.
- They also know that few will seek them out. They have accepted the fact that few will ask them to share what it is that they have come to understand. Their time has come and passed; the younger generations want little more from them than reminiscences.
- I was honored to speak to both these men. I hope I showed them proper respect in our conversations. I hope, too, that I was listening to them for what they can teach me about life, not merely for what they can reveal as witnesses to the past.
- We live so strongly within the boundaries of our own experience. If we long for anything, it is usually for a time past, when we were younger, stronger, better looking, and not yet so bound by decisions we have made.
We seldom long for a future where our bodies are less but our spirits and insight are more. Yet, that future is there. It is in the eyes of those who have lived longer, seen more, and come closer to a resolved understanding of their place and purpose on this planet.
- There is no death. Only a change of worlds. (Chief Seattle)
- It is the streets, the people, the birds, the animals, the trees - the joys and struggles and passions of everyday life - where my life now brushes against the sacred and my spirit finds its strongest voice.
- I have done what I could, tried in my way to be an instrument of peace.
There was a section in the book about a mother and her children. It resonated deeply with me because it reflects what I've been trying to do with Sophia and Olivia, and how I live my life.
Taken on March 27, 2008.
These are the highlights from that story:
- She is a woman with a good heart. I can tell by the objects she carries - a bouquet of flowers, a box of thank-you notes. She understands the power of beauty, the need to show gratitude and thanks.
- The quiet believers [are] those who live a life of service, trying to shape their small corner of the world into a place of warmth and love by making each ordinary act of life a prayerful offering.
- We want our children to be people of faith, but we do not wish them to be blinded by belief....[We want them to be] alive with the sacredness of life, the kinship of all creatures, and the true conviction that we are each our brothers' and sisters' keeper.
- We pass no judgment on how the spirit speaks, asking only that it speak in a voice of kindness and love.
- For our children are but gifts that we are given, a moment's grace that we are asked to shape and share. We should raise them to be open to the world - full of faith, but not blind with belief; respectful of all who are honest seekers; and guided in their lives by a kind a caring heart.
- Give them the eyes of wonder. Show them, as best you are able, the beauty of everything in the universe - the stones, the trees, the birds, the people.
- Show them the connection, not the obligation, in their daily affairs. Let them see that the phone calls they make to grandmothers, and the thank-you notes they write to people they barely know, are really gossamer threads strung between hearts. Teach them that a life of service is a life of peace, and that a small faith can be as powerful as a large belief.
There was a story in particular that stood out about a girl who he befriended. She told him at her eighth grade graduation, "Thanks for paying attention to me, even though I'm just a kid."
Taken on January 9, 2010.
He thought in response, "Had it not been for her, those people would not have been gathered together. Had it not been for her freshness and promise, there would have been no tears. Yes, she was 'just a kid.' But that kid had brought us together and opened our hearts in a way no adult could ever have done."
As he reflected more about what she said, he finally realized what he wanted to say not only to the girl, but to all children:
Never apologize for being "just a kid." For you are the most important person in the world.
You are promise. You are possibility. You are hope when our hope has dimmed. You are joy when our hearts are heavy. In you, we see the world as we dream that it could be.
Remain excited when you see a leaf; it tells us there is still beauty in the small, when our eyes have gotten too focused on the great.
Play with each other on playgrounds; it shows us that all people of all backgrounds can meet each other with open hearts.
Keep talking to the dogs and the cats and the pigeons and the ducks; it reminds us that the spirit is present in all living things.
Keep laughing and giggling when you are surprised and delighted; it offers our ears the music of grace.
Do whatever it is that your heart would have you do. Laugh, cry, stomp your feet in anger, dawdle in the morning, resist bedtime at night. Allow us to see how important the moment is to you, and to share, for an instant, the importance of that moment.
For you remind us what it means to be alive.
You command us to be strong, you remind us to be gentle.
In your eyes, we see the eyes of all children, and, for an instant, we understand what we have in common with all mothers and fathers at all times in all places on the earth.
No, never apologize for being "just a kid." For you are strong beyond your wildest imagining. Your goodnight kiss can stop an army; your tears can melt the hardest heart.
For you have the gift of innocence. You have the gift of dreams.
When we see you laughing and playing, our spirits take wing.
When we lift you and hold you, we are consecrating a world of hope.
He concluded with how he saw both of their roles:
For we each have our jobs, she and I. Mine is to hold her safe in unseen hands. Hers is to be a mirror to my dreams.