Don’t overlook the beauty and the wonder tucked away in the ordinary.
If I had to sum up the lesson I kept hearing while on vacation last week it would be that.
I heard it standing outside the Tenement Museum while visiting NYC.
I heard it while reading my book during our train ride from NYC to Boston, MA.
I heard it while listening to a lady talk passionately about her collection of umbrella covers in Portland, ME.
At the Tenement Museum we walked through the day and life of two immigrant families; one Jewish family and one Italian family. We toured an old apartment building which had been the actual home for both those families as well as a total of 7000 other immigrants over the course of the apartment building’s life. Our tour guide mentioned how often, in life, we hear the stories of famous people but this was a tour designed to honor and find the beauty in the life of the ordinary and the everyday person.
On our train ride from NYC to Boston, I read as Eugene Peterson shared and recounted pivotal moments in David’s life. The stories “serve to train us in the normative, in seeing, accepting, participating in the miracle hidden in the ordinary…”
“There’s something just beneath the surface of everything, something invisible and inaudible but just as real, maybe even more real than what we are seeing, hearing or touching. Stories are our primary means of exploring the beneath the surface behind the scenes realities that are as present and immediate to us as anything we have access to through out five senses.” Leap Over a Wall page 38
In this book, Leap Over the Wall, Peterson reflects on the life of David. One reviewer sums up the message of the book like this: “Peterson skillfully uses the David story to talk not about David, but about you and me…the human story in all it’s wonder and terror and pity.” Richard Foster
I read again the story of David selecting five smooth stones from the brook. Saul and his army were overcome by the impossibility of the situation–their minds, hearts, and lives captured by a Goliath dominated imagination. David, however, was captured by a God dominated imagination…humbly and faithfully kneeling at a brook…despite all the chaos and contempt surrounding him.
After reading this story, and as we neared our destination, I stopped to review the directions our airbnb host had emailed us telling us how to get to the place we would call home for the next two nights.
We were to take the orange line metro to the Stony Brook stop.
I smiled. Of course, Lord, stony brook.
At the end of our time in Boston, I asked my son Sean what his favorite part about our trip was in Boston. I was expecting him to mention one of the places we had visited on the Freedom Trail, but he didn’t. He surprised me when he said it was the neighborhood we would go back to in the evening time…after we left the downtown sights and sounds in Boston. His favorite part was simply walking around Stony Brook
As we sat and waited to board our train from Boston to Portland, ME, I struck up a conversation with the lady sitting on the bench next to me. She lived in Portland, ME. She suggested that during our visit we take the ferry ride over to Peaks Island.
The next morning ,as we sat an ate breakfast, I searched google for things to do on Peaks Island. One of the suggestions was to visit The Umbrella Cover Museum. The more I read about the museum, the more I wanted had to see it. One lady had collected over 700 umbrella covers. Each cover came with a story of how and where and when she acquired it. Her collection even made it into the Guinness Book of World Record. It was an absolutely insane, crazy and weird idea for a museum…I think this is why I loved it so much. She didn’t collect umbrellas…she collected the insignificant (often tossed out or easily misplaced) covers. Who would even think of doing this? Yet, no matter how weird the idea, she sold me with her mission statement:
Today: Don’t overlook the beauty tucked away in the seemingly insignificant and the ordinary. Don’t dismiss it too quickly…pick it up, study it, and find the wonder hidden below the surface.