The littlest life-changers

I’ve just got to start with the salad. You see, this was no ordinary salad. It was the first of its kind I’d ever made. Red leaf lettuce and mixed greens, chicken, cucumber, strawberries, avocado, corn, egg, feta. Topped with freshly ground pepper and the creamiest balsamic dressing in all the land. There I was, eating my salad alone during my brief lunch break at a picnic table on a perfectly sunny, breezy, lovely day, people-watching and pondering as I chewed.

And then there was the post-run neighborhood stroll. A mix of sweat and endorphins and waning sunlight, a long line at the ice cream shop, a suited man walking down the street playing trombone, a run-in with a friend and plans for coffee the next day. There I was, soaking in the coming darkness, willing my newly tired legs to carry me to my well-worn stoop and through my squeaky front door and up my narrow stairway, grocery store goodies in tow.

And then the trip to the pool. A spontaneous running club reunion and a new four year-old friend who challenged me to handstands and races and a trip to the deep end. Swim diapered-babies and pruny fingertips and crusty chlorine hair. There I was, reveling in the happy cries of summer, the post-work sighs from adults, the earnest whistle blows of dutiful lifeguards, reliving my childhood with a sweet little girl in the early days of her own.

This is life. It’s just ordinary, boring, glorious life. There’s nothing particularly special or outstanding about my day-to-day, but in the wake of the inordinate graces God flooded my soul with on the Camino, I am finding life to be, well, different.

I started a little habit on the Camino that is proving to be rather revolutionary. Each day, I’ve been writing little lists of gratitude to Jesus. They contain items like chips and salsa, conversations with strangers, the little old lady who gives me a strawberry candy every time I see her and says “Have a blessed day!” There are the loftier, more abstract items, too, but mostly they’re just little. Little and insignificant and inconsequential and life-changing.

It’s just a muscle, really. And in Spain I worked it long and hard. There, my surroundings and experiences were bathed in this delightful light of newness, of marked difference from all that I’m used to, of surpassing charm. And now I’m back, in my same old city with the same old haunts and routes and language from before, but life? It isn’t the same old. Because that muscle is still at work, still strong and primed, still welcoming the challenge of living with continual gratitude.

It doesn’t take much more than practice, and effort, and small but deliberate acts of the will. Putting pen to paper often helps. And I dearly hope this way of life is one I’ll cultivate for days and months and years to come, for it truly does change everything. I know more storms will come my way, bad days and overwhelming pressures and tragic loss. But with each simple prayer of thanksgiving, each list of salads and strolls and swims, I believe I’ll continue to live life in this gloriously transformed way.

Won’t you join me?





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