It really is the little things.
I’ve said those words before. I’ve joked with them, been sarcastic with them, and, I’m sure, had a few times of heartfelt confession of them. Radiant sunsets, quiet moments of prayer, gentle whispers of waves, my fiance’s hand squeeze, my parents’ hugs when I return home – all these I considered as beautiful additions to my joy. Same with the train tickets my mom bought me, free samples at the store, and fresh donuts after grocery shopping with my dad. They brought me happiness, but their significance was underrated because I had always taken them for granted.
I always assumed there would be every single ingredient for blueberry banana bread in the cupboard. I always assumed that bathrooms would have shower curtains, trash bins, and toilet paper. I always assumed that, if I didn’t have what I needed, I could just rummage about and find it. In my security, I expected meals to come from somewhere, figuring out my problems to be easy, and that I would have just enough money to call up ubers whenever I missed my bus.
No Longer Easy
I didn’t expect the joy the little things would bring me when moving to Charlotte stripped away some of that security.
I didn’t have someone to walk me through meal planning. The seemingly endless bus routes across the city unnerved me. I was at a loss at what were good items to stock up on and what I could go without. To last my three months comfortably, I didn’t have enough to go out to eat more than four times a month.
Vividly, I remember my first plane to Charlotte being delayed by over five hours (and wondering what a strange beginning meant for the rest of my time there). I was banking on not having to buy dinner at the airport, and instead buying groceries upon arrival – neither of which looked like they were going to happen. Earlier I started budgeting for everything I’d need to buy in the first two weeks – plus ubers until I’d gotten my bus pass – and I was loathe to spend a penny extra.
As I prayed to overcome my budding anxiety, a sweet custodian lady wheeled out a truckload of snacks and food for the people on my flight. I felt incredibly relieved – that God had answered my prayers, and that now, I could spend those ten dollars on a much-needed uber, buying a cooking pot, or dinner out with the interns. While loading up on snacks for the next day-and-a-half wouldn’t have been my ideal meal plan, the unexpected gratitude that welled in my heart surprised me. I had what I needed – just not in the packaging I would’ve wanted.
And I suppose that’s my point. I’m learning to distinguish what I need from what I want or what I prefer; and, even more, learning to delight in the simple things.
A Shift in Perspective
Would I consider moments like in the airport “suffering”? Would I consider snacks for dinner instead of a homemade meal a shock or a cause for self-pity? No. I realize that where many of my fellow DukeEngage participants are travelling, there are people (maybe even the students themselves) who find themselves in much more unpredictable, scarce circumstances. The challenges I’ve run into are by no means comparable. But for me, they represent an unexpected and humbling point of growth that challenged this comfortable country girl.
There’s something different about Skyping my parents and speaking to them as a young women who does her grocery shopping. There’s something different about calling up my already-graduated-and-adulting fiance and gushing excitedly about my meal plans for the week. There’s something different about talking to a friend over (albeit a little burned) chicken-and-broccoli curry. And, finally, there’s something humbling and life-giving in sharing what I’ve gleaned of the transportation system to a fellow intern, after late nights staring at bus routes (and my own troubles actually securing a pass!).
It’s the Little Things
Knowing that I’ll have dinner on the table tonight, that I’ve got paper towels stashed under the sink, and that a generous soul keeps buying dish soap for the common kitchen gives me a joy and relief I’d always overlooked before. As I take it one day at a time, I find that there is always enough for that day. Not usually extra (for things to last the week), but always enough.
Now, whenever I call up Mom or Dad or a friend for updates, I’ll often say that it really is in the little things. And I might be joking a little, but in reality, I’m amazed on how my perspective changed in a few short weeks. One of my favorite writers, Paul the Apostle, wrote that “with food and clothing, we shall be content,” in a letter to his mentee, Timothy. I am grateful to be blessed with more than just food and clothes here in Charlotte, but I do believe I’m starting to understand what he meant.