So, last fall, I had a friend that life had burned badly…a nasty divorce, a bad job situation, heartbreak with her children…I could go on. She lives out of province, and I cared, but living so far away it was hard to know what to do. She and I have been close: we share quotes from books that make us think, or a meaningful song, or just share ideas that challenge the other to ponder…a friend that has challenged me to grow. She’s great…but she was so low that she kinda shut down communication.
I get when you’re drowning, you don’t really have energy to think about lofty ideas…sometimes just putting one foot ahead of the other in the slog of life is more than what seems possible. Expecting exchanges from her was off the table, at least for a while.
But just because she was doing poorly, I didn’t want to stop communication…perhaps especially because she was doing poorly, I didn’t want to break connection. But I had to do something that wasn’t trivializing her…and a cheery greeting every morning would do that. I didn’t want to be preachy or pretentious, so sending a motivational quote every evening would do that. I didn’t want to send her newsy emails of my day…this and that…which would give her something to compare to what her life was not.
So, I, sorta by accident, started to send her moments of beauty, or wonder, or silly, or even just pleasant. It was just intended to be a bright spot in her day…a moment that she might appreciate the fall leaf, or the smile of a child, or the warmth of a fire.
I knew it wouldn’t fix anything in her life…but, I hoped, perhaps it would serve as a momentary reprieve from the crap of her life. Maybe she could enjoy the beauty, or smile at the humour. I sent a picture, a single picture more days than not, and rarely with any words. Just a snapshot…it let her know that I was thinking of her, but hopefully in a way she could accept. The world has so much beauty in it, and sometimes when you can’t see it, it’s helpful if you can see the beauty through the eyes of another.
But a funny thing happened on the way to my “goodwill gesture project”. It turned out that the person who benefitted was me.
Cuz what happened was that it became somewhat of a mission in my life to find the most beautiful moment of the day.
I became a certifiable beauty hunter
I would look for “the” photo to send her that day. And I would see the hoarfrost on the branches and stop to look at it. I would gaze at the trees and take a picture of the whole tree, and then of a single branch, wondering what was most beautiful. But I wouldn’t text the photo immediately…cuz I was gonna wait a bit to see what else I saw that day…and as I was looking, I saw many more moments that would challenge me as I was inspired to consider it as “the photo of the day”. It got to be kinda fun to hunt down and find the object of my iPhone’s quick snapshot…and to discover that when I looked, there was so much to consider for the pic.
I saw things of beauty that I likely would have passed over and missed completely if I hadn’t been looking for the photo. Cookie dough. I took a picture of fresh baked cookies I had made cooling on the counter. A picture of a adorable window dressing in a near by shop. A beautiful stone. Freshly painted finger nails. The front of a hand made card I received. A striking poster. A goofy saying on a fast food cup. Once I sent her a picture of these boots I bought…with the 50% off notice–who doesn’t love a good bargain–now that’s gorgeous!! A cloud formation that was exquisite.
And after a while, I saw these flashes of beauty everywhere, and became naturally more grateful for all the beauty in my life that I must have been overlooking before. The photography wasn’t fancy…probably not even very good…but it was good enough. They weren’t fancy, or even especially remarkable.
There were things that I had looked at without truly seeing them before.
And after a while, sometimes, not all the time, but occasionally, she would respond with a 🙂
And after another while, she would respond with a comment.
Her outlook gradually changed over the months. I’m not foolish enough to think she began to rise out of her depression because of my photos transforming her life…I could simply see the results of it lifting in her response. And gradually, we’ve returned to the sort of reciprocal friendship that shares the good and bad, the beauty and the brutal.
And I don’t send her those pictures anymore. She doesn’t need “a bright spot” from me in her day…she creates many of her own now, thank you very much.
I’m glad for her. Truly I am.
But I miss it.
I liked finding the picture of the day to send to her. Something I was grateful for. Something that made me smile, chuckle, or gasp with wonder. It was good for me to send her those pictures.
My life was enriched by the daily practice of the hunt for beauty.
Funny how, when we work to help another, the person we most end up helping is ourselves.