This morning I took my dog for a walk. We left my beautiful wife and newborn son sleeping in the apartment and strolled to a nearby park where Silke could answer the call of nature. The air was cool and light, and our sleepy downtown neighborhood was just coming awake to the sounds of chirping birds and lazy Saturday morning traffic. It was a beautiful scene. I sat on a park bench and watched my dog trot around in the grass, happily sniffing her way from bush to bush. Sunlight filtered through gently swaying leaves, warm and kind as it bathed the park in dappled hues. Someone nearby was cooking breakfast. The air smelled like bacon. I sat there, just basking in the moment, and I thought about how blessed my life was.
Annoyed yet? Hang in there…here comes the plot twist.
Last night I took my dog for a walk. My kid had been crying himself awake for the last hour of non-stop rocking, and my arms and my patience needed a break. God programmed babies to cry when they don’t know what to feel, then gave them tiny malfunctioning brains that never know what to feel. What a jerk. It was muggy and hot outside as I stomped down the alley, avoiding piles of broken glass like a ghetto minefield. At the park my dog was too distracted to do her business, and I muttered under my breath as I watched her seek out every single pee-stained tree and bush in sight, taking long whiffs of urine-scented foliage at each spot. Dogs are so stupid. Standing there in the humid dusk, frustrated and tired, I scowled at the world and I sulked about how hard my life was.
What changed overnight? Same dog. Same baby. Same park in the same neighborhood. Maybe the air was a few degrees cooler and the setting a bit more serene, but my circumstances were essentially identical. Same life.
The difference was me. I went to the park feeling abused and I found bitterness. I went feeling blessed and I found beauty. People say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s true that beauty is a subjective thing, but I think finding it is less about our view of the world and more about how we view our place in it. Does the universe owe us a good life, or is goodness a gift — undeserved and humbling in its mercy? If we look at the world through this lens of gratitude, it changes everything.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholden.
My life has been blessed. And I mean that sincerely, not as an internet hashtag used to sprinkle false modesty on post-workout selfies. The short insignificant 30 years I’ve lived have been stuffed full of good things that I take for granted every single day. I didn’t deserve the kind, loving parents that raised me in a safe and nurturing home. I was born into middle-class society, able to attend college, and my current livelihood basically fell into my lap less than a year after graduation. I met my wife through that job. I definitely don’t deserve her. And I had nothing to do with the fact that our son was born beautiful and healthy (especially his lungs). All of these things have been given to me, unmerited, yet I stand in the magnificence of the created world and whine because I’m sleepy and my dog is constipated.
Cry me a river.
I know I can’t maintain my current perspective forever. When the sun sets and I just want to go to sleep, I’m sure some of the frustration will return as I hold my screaming son, trying desperately to shush him into a temporary coma. After a long week, I will think of work bitterly, and in moments of stress, I will speak to my wife in anger.
But in my heart, I know the truth. I am blessed. I am beholden. And in quiet moments like this morning…that is a beautiful thing.