Created for the transcendent

Jeff relaxes while appreciating the beauty of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, June 2015.

Jeff enjoying the beauty of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, June 2015

“We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew…Human beings are actually created for the transcendent, for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful…and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world a little more hospitable to these beautiful things.” Desmond Tutu

The more I understand the great truth of Bishop Tutu’s statement, the more I understand and like other people.  One thing I’ve loved most about blogging is the way it has opened my eyes to how many people in the world share common joys and observations about the blessings that surround us in this world, however dismal the news may be.  When we look at beautiful things together and share our appreciation, it connects us to each other.

I encourage you to spread happiness by sharing your joy with others.  It doesn’t have to be in a blog or book or song or painting; it can be a casual remark to a cashier or mail carrier or person waiting with you at the bus stop.  Most of us love to hear someone else making a cheerful remark about the weather or the colorful flowers or anything else worthy of praise, even (and maybe especially) when we are feeling down ourselves.

What are some ways we can make this world a bit more hospitable to these beautiful things?

49 Comments

  1. Compliments, smiles and a few kind words cost us nothing to give but reap rewards beyond measure.

    • Thank you Bob, I agree!

  2. Mary Elizabeth Tait

    I have a dear friend who will set a kindness goal for herself and then look for ways to brighten someone’s day. She does this when she is having a hard day herself and believe me, she has had many difficult days.

    Today would be a good day to share some joy.

    • Mary Elizabeth, I love that idea of a kindness goal. If every one of us did that, how different a place the world would be! I’m especially challenged by the advice of my friend Ashleigh Brilliant: “Be kind to unkind people: they probably need it most.” Tell your friend she brightened by day simply by my hearing about her from you. I hope you have had a day of giving and receiving much joy!

    • What a wonderful idea, ME!

  3. Good Monday after the 4th, Julia. The photo of Jeff, relaxing and enjoying the peaceful splendor of Lancaster County is wonderful, as the beautiful countryside seems to say, “Tranquility”. Dr. Vann mentioned many years ago, even though it’s a small gesture, employees with name tags really appreciate the recognition of being called by name. I watched his kindness many times! He maintained that caring bedside manner many years after the “house calls” were over. 💛 I really think kindness usually has a boomerang effect. It might hit you when you least expect it! 😄

    • Sheila, that’s so true about the boomerang effect. But it does seem some of us (such as Dr. Vann) have a special gift for being kind, and they are wonderful examples for the rest of us. My friend Ellis shared a small business card that her father had printed up decades ago (before it was easy or cheap to have them printed) that he used to give out, that expressed thanks for doing a wonderful job. He would hand these out to people he dealt with in various places. I was so inspired by that, I had some of my own printed up (I can send some to you or anyone who wants them, as I have plenty.) They are nice to leave for restaurant and hotel staff, among others. The world always needs more positive energy! Different ones of us need it on different days, so if we all do what we can, we will keep each other enjoying or at least enduring the day.

      • Oh, I would so love that! Thank you so much, as I’ll look forward to seeing ANYTHING in my mailbox from you. 📪 I certainly haven’t mailed ANYTHING your way in far too long. Bill asked me recently if I’d mailed a NASCAR model car to Matt (from him) and I sheepishly admitted that I hadn’t. 📫 Are you spending time this summer in both homes? I can’t believe how quickly the summer is passing!

        • P.S.Speaking of mail, we received the bill from the Paris hospital yesterday, for Bill’s ER visit. $97.00 and that included ambulance ride for two. He took a fall, but could have been so much worse. 🙏 JUST 21 stitches!

          • WHOA! It definitely could have been worse; I guess a bit of socialized medicine can come in handy. I hate that you had to have even a minor disruption in your trip, though. I STILL haven’t heard all the details of your European adventure. We’ll have to plan an extra long session on the VERNANDAH so you can tell me all about it! 🙂

        • Sheila, I’ll try to post you a few right away. In my comment to Ann (which I will get to in a minute), you’ll find a link to a photo of the card, so you will know what it looks like. Yes, we are spending time at both homes this summer, though more in Alexandria than York; this is Jeff’s busiest time of year at work, with two resident classes getting ready to graduate and two more soon to arrive. I agree; the summer is flying past! Spring was like a blink of the eyes!

      • Ann, South Carolina

        Leaving thank you cards for restaurant and hotel staff is a wonderful idea. Can you post a copy of your card so we can see what it says? I appreciate good service more and more because it’s so rare.
        Ann

        P.S. I do try to find something kind or encouraging to others. Yesterday I thanked the produce man at Publix and he seemed so pleased to be recognized.

        • Hi Ann, here is a photo of one of the cards. I got them for next to nothing from Vistaprint, so I didn’t have any control over the font size or color, but at least they get the point across. As mentioned, I’d be happy to send some to anyone who wants them. Whoever wants me to send a few their way should email me at defeatdespair@verizon.net.

          I’m happy you are helping to encourage people. The folks who take care of the produce stands at the grocery affect almost all of our daily lives, but I bet it’s rare for someone to thank them. The same is true for so many others with whom we come in contact. Sometimes I fantasize about withdrawing a lot of $20 bills, and going around to fast food places at night and giving them away to the folks who are mopping the floors or cleaning the restrooms there, getting ready to close. I haven’t done it yet, but I surely think it would be fun. Of course I’d have to be careful not to get mugged in the parking lot on the way out! 😀

  4. When I stop and remember everyone is a soul on their own journey everything changes within and around me in that instant. It is such a pity I cannot stop and reflect on that at all times 🙂

    • Pauline, that really does change everything, doesn’t it? But it’s hard for all of us to remember. We get so caught up in things and situations and worries and such. But when we are able to be still and contemplate that truth, it does change the focus. I so enjoyed our talks while you were here. Thanks for being with us.

  5. Taking and sharing pictures! I always enjoy your beautiful photographs and even more the personal connections you share regarding them. Sharing pictures and the memories they bring is always a beautiful thing to me. I appreciate your reminded to share the simple beauties of this life in every day opportunities with others. I am going to begin to capture more of these opportunities thanks to you!

    • Wow, that is a wonderful thought, I appreciate your giving me the credit! You have been sharing joy in many ways ever since I have known you. I have lots of pictures and memories of you, family and those you know — I bet you would LOVE to see them if I ever got the time to scan them all in (another of my good intentions). Some of them were of things I had forgotten about until I saw the photos (such as the ones of a very young Drew and Matt “kidnapping” you! What a wild time that was. Amy, do you remember that?) Those Central Coast days were so magical. Thanks for being here!

  6. At times I’ll pick up the bill at the drive up window for the person behind me. A little act of kindness benefits us both.
    -Alan

    • Alan, for the benefit of any of us who might be going to Connecticut, could you tell us the make and model of your car so we can tail you? JUST KIDDING!!! Seriously, there were a couple of times in San Francisco when the car ahead of me paid my (then $2.00) toll on the Oakland Bay Bridge going into the city. Both times it was a lovely surprise, and it’s remarkable how a little thing like that can add cheer to the day. I wish I could say I turned around and paid for the car behind me, but I did not. However, I hope I would do that if it happened again. They are talking of putting a toll on the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel going to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, so I may have to stick to my words. But I doubt a toll can get passed around here anytime soon. Our bridges here aren’t pretty like the ones in the Bay area, but at least they are “free” (which really means the cost is laid on all the taxpayers, not just the ones who use the bridge). 😀 Hope you are having a lovely week!

      • Hope your week is going well, too.
        -Alan

        • Thank you Alan! So far, so good. Losing our big old oak tree was a mixed blessing. Watching the enormity of it as they took it apart little by little (and finding that there was a lot of dead wood and hollow branches among the more solid ones) I could not help but think what a disaster might have befallen us if another hurricane came as Isabel did in 2003. That was the year before we moved there, but the neighbors tell us there was quite a lot of damage to the homes on our street, including ours. So while I hated to say goodbye to that giant tree, I came to feel it was a blessing to have it removed. Hope you are having a good week too!

          • Although you have lost your tree, the memories of its role played in your lives still remains. Whether it provided shade on a hot summer’s day, supported a swing, did its part as home base in a game of hide-and-go-seek, or protected the nests of the birds you so enjoy on your property. It has served a greater purpose than one would expect in being a tree.
            -Alan

            • Alan, thank you! I agree that the tree has had a good long life and given us more than most trees have given us (with the possible exception of the truly GIANT southern magnolia that was in our front yard when I was a child). Hopefully, the tree will continue to be useful, since the wood is being milled to provide good oak lumber for someone else’s building needs. The arborist (who owns a mill) agreed to save some of the wood for me so that a woodworker can make us a small shelf or table as a remembrance.

  7. MaryAnn

    Thank you for brightening my day with your blog about the beautiful things. I am on a “kindness mission”, deciding to spread joy as I go: with a smile, a wave, a hello and the greeting “God bless you”. Yesterday, Paul & I spent the day in San Francisco to relax & enjoy the beauty to celebrate our 52nd anniversary. It was a day filled with happiness & kindness to one another & each person we encountered.
    Great photo of Jeff being still in such a lovely surrounding.

    • Mary Ann, I am glad you were spreading sunshine in the city. After what happened there recently (referring to the young woman who was shot in a random attack), they can use all the kindness and encouragement they can get. WOW, 52 years! Congratulations!! I’m so happy you enjoyed the post.

  8. HarryS

    If I want my world to be a better place I have to do what I possibly can to help improve these things around me towards the ultimate goal of God’s Kingdom.
    Maybe that’s the reason I love gardening so much.

    Every day I pray the prayer; .… “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
    More and more it sounds like a good idea to me.

    • Thank you Harry! I agree. The more we come to understand God’s will (or at least accept our own limitations about fully understanding it) the easier it is to let go of the illusion that we are in control. Hope you have a great weekend coming up.

  9. I LOVED that photo of Jeff looking over that spectacular landscape. Be still my heart. I would love to see such a vista and so tranquil looking. Kindness is a simple thing. It’s as simple as offering someone space in your trash can because they have done a deep cleaning and you have room to spare. Or seeing they need a second pair of hands to move a piece of furniture but won’t ask and offering. It’s always the little things that make the difference for someone. A $6.00 rose plant for someone who can’t get out to garden anymore can bring such joy it spills over. I love the direction you are leaning here. Each day I look for ways to brighten someone’s day. I do wish I got out more often. 🙂

    • Marlene, every single kindness you mention here has been offered to us at one time or another, and I still remember all of them. They make a much bigger difference than we imagine. A little rose plant such as the one you mention was given to me by friend many years ago, and to her surprise (and mine, a little bit) it thrived outdoors when I planted it after warm weather came. Matt gave me another little “indoor” rose plant at Mother’s Day, and I put it outside by our mailbox with our other rosebush. It has done beautifully. As a military family who had to move often and leave behind our share of trash with generous neighbors who offer to dispose of it, we know how valuable that “small” service can be. Not too long after Jeff’s last surgery, we had to replace a heavy bathroom vanity top, and were wondering how on earth we would get it from the trunk of the car into our home (the handyman could not come until the next day and Jeff needed to take the car to work). Just as we were trying to figure out how to manage it between the two of us, a complete stranger happened by and quickly offered to help. It felt like a minor miracle! So you are correct, kindness is simple, but like compound interest, its power multiplies. As Shakespeare wrote about mercy, “It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” Thanks for being here, and for sharing your kind words with us today!

  10. Hello Dear Julia, I came for the view but stayed for the love…..I think I heard that in a movie once. I adore that quote and hadn’t heard it before. I do feel like a caretaker of nature at times. Sometimes too much, if that’s possible. I feel terrible when I see a broken tree after a storm or a bear lost and confused in a city. There was one wandering thru the Edmonton River Valley last week. They warned people to be alert on the paths. My first concern wasn’t for bikers and runners, it was for the poor bear. I was thinking how scared it might be if it wandered out of the valley and into morning traffic. I’ll see a kitty walking down the sidewalk and say, “stay off the road little one”. They’d probably say, “yes, I know crazy lady”. HA!
    Lovely photo of your Jeff and all that glorious green that surrounds him. How could you not feel like a small pea in a big pod sitting there? xoK

    • K, I love that quote too! I totally understand about the bears and kitties and broken trees. On my walks I have been known to walk a wandering dog or kitty back to their home (and once I had to convince the doggie to let me get close enough to read his dog tag so I would know where he needed to go) when they are out without leash or owner, especially if they wander into the street. I get especially nervous when I see a turtle crossing a busy road; I have an impulse to stop and set up a temporary road block so it doesn’t get squashed. You would have totally understood if you could have heard me explaining about the tree removal to the two box turtles Jeff called me out to see when he was mowing the day before the tree was removed. They weren’t the usual couple I am accustomed to seeing, because one of them was bright yellow, not orange (although like your rabbits, maybe they change colors? I thought maybe it was one of their children). In any case, I told them that there would be a lot of noise and ground shaking and vibrating the next day not too far from where they live, and they didn’t need to be scared because if they stayed out of the way, they wouldn’t get hurt. I know they couldn’t understand what I was saying, but the way that yellow guy was looking at me intently with his bright orange eyes, it was hard not to think he knew I meant him no harm. Of course, I had to get a photo of them, though the lady was too shy to pose.

  11. 😀 I can totally see you out there conversing with nature Julia, cute! I hear you on the road block thing. I want *everyone* to slow to a crawl when I see anything on the road. I had to yeild to a silly pigeon the other day. I wanted to turn right but she was on the road just taking her time. I tried to inch a little closer to give her the notion to move but she just walked here and there. Then the goof behind, honked at me as I was holding up his royal highness from earth shattering things (sarcasim seems appropriate). She finally flew onto the sidewalk and if I had time, I would have had a stern talk with her. Lucky it was me infront of Mr Important. “Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience” I love that one. Our eyes see the beauty of life when we’re not rushing by. xo K

    • I seem to have that problem alot: cars behind me honking because I’m not going fast enough…and I don’t have any pigeons to blame it on, either! Apparently most of the people on the roads are way, way more important than me, but I don’t mind, because being a nobody gives me the time to do things like talk to animals… 😀 Now, if I could only figure out how to negotiate with squirrels about tomatoes…they don’t seem very interested in anything I have to say. That squirrel we met in DC was exceptional!

      • I’m always getting honked at too but get this, today a ticket came in the mail. Eeeerg, I don’t get it. People flying by me, honking and tail gating and yet I get a ticket. A small town, we were coming home from our camping trip. Jim had beer so I drove. I guess I didn’t see the signage. Assuming it was 80Km which is 50 mph (half the normal highways speed). Nope, 60 km (38 mph) and I was doing 73 km. Here I’m thinking I’m well under. Sounds like a license to print money in this small town. They must be hard up for cash and I hope everyone gunning it by me got a ticket too. Jim even admits he drives way faster than me and never gets ticketed.
        Remember that car that cross the dashed line on our way home from picking up Pauline? That was something! You and I must both be nobodies then, because I do better with squirrels than behind the wheel. Oh woah is me 😀 xoxoK

        • K, that is too odd — I too got a ticket from DC (really just a warning notice saying “you will get a ticket next time”) from one of the DC “bandit cams” — for going 58 mph!!! On an Interstate Highway!! And it was nearly two months after the fact when it arrived!! Talk about a revenue enhancement device! Come to find out, this is a stretch of I-295 that had a speed limit of 50, or maybe even 45 (temporarily, due to construction?) but in the photo they sent as “proof” you can see that there are absolutely NO CARS ANYWHERE NEAR ME — this was on the Friday after Thanksgiving when my sister and I were coming back from the Gaylord Ice Festival at National Harbor. The funny thing is that Jeff drives that exact stretch to work EVERY DAY and, while I wouldn’t use the term “aggressive driver” about him most of the time, let’s just say that he can’t stand to ride with me because I drive so much more slowly than he does — yet he NEVER gets a ticket! I don’t know, K, maybe when we get behind the wheel we generate a giant “X” that appears above our cars on police radar — “this car brakes for rabbits, have a field day with this lady, and extra points if you make her cry.” 😀 See, now you know why I like riding the public transportation and walking (and why I wanted to park on the Virginia side and walk through Arlington into DC, hee-hee). In the old days we could have worn our blue-gray tightly curled wigs and granny glasses (attached to beaded chains around our necks) and if the cops stopped me I could squint at them and say “What’s that, sonny? You say you boys need some gas? OH, going too fast? My grandson says it’s against the law to go slow around here!” Maybe that would work, but on a bandit cam, you don’t even get that chance. “For your convenience, we are now ticketing you by mail…send in $400 plus our $13.95 ticket-by-mail convenience fee.” Oh well, it’s a strange sort of comfort to know this happens on both sides of the border…the northern one, anyway.

  12. LOL, you kill me! “You say you boys need some gas?” I will have to remember that.
    Sounds like I got my next Halloween outfit figured out. I’m picturing, ‘Mama’ (Vicki Lawrence on the Carol Burnett show). Did you watch? So fun!

    Sounds like we are living parallel lives when it comes to driving. My ticket was much the same and it was very dark out because we dropped off a friend in another town along the way. My old neighbour was so mad when she got a ticket, she clipped her toe nails and sent them with her cheque in the envelope, eeeeeeek! But it made me laugh. xok

    • OK, you be “Mama” (yes, I remember her!) and I’ll be Granny Clampett, my alter ego. I already look a good bit like her anyway so there wouldn’t be much dress-up involved. I have always said my mother was just like her, but the older I get, the more I think I’m the one who fits that description…Boy, can you just see us hitting the streets of DC as the gray panthers? Things would never be the same around here…

      EEEWWW, the toenail thing is something even I would never think of! But I heard a really interesting (and sad) news story when we lived in NorCal, about the disgusting sorts of things that get handed to toll booth workers at the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. It made me really feel sorry for them so from then on I tried to be extra friendly and nice to them whenever I drove through…

      • OMgosh, laughing on my way to bed. You kind of do resemble Granny Clampett……it’s only that you’re both little, teeny, feisty, chicks, LOL. The C-ment pond would be nice this week xoK

        • Plus I have the same hairstyle and glasses. Maybe she’s some sort of subconscious fashion model for me. When y’all come back in a year or two I might look just like her by then. BTW we have two C-ment ponds here at our Alexandria home, both very nice. They weren’t open when y’all were here but they are open between Memorial Day and Labor Day, just to keep in mind for scheduling purposes… 😀

          • LOL, “subconscious fashion model”. Maybe you could run for Possem Queen too? What in tarnation? Do they have nice big umbrella’s near your C-ment ponds? Us older Possems Queens need the shade, ha x k

            • They do have big umbrellas at the C-ment pond which would be a mystery to Granny Clampett, since most folks with any sense don’t go to the C-ment pond when it rains. But no worries, we can wear our sunbonnets if the sun is out. That cotton-pickin Ellie May never wears hers at the C-ment pond, but we have more sense than she does.

              • I shall whip out my giant Maui sun hat then, the shade it casts is enough for two 😀

                • Great news! Let’s both bring books even though I just know we’ll end up chatting the whole time…

                  • I’m thinking that sounds about right Julia. We wouldn’t get *any* reading done at all. Between trips to the canteen and chit-chats we’d be lucky to get thru the dust-jackets. Next time I’m bringing an extra tiara too 😀 xo

                    • Yes, that tiara is a must. To the casual onlooker who didn’t know us, it might explain a lot. 😀

  13. Michael

    Thomas Merton- Jesuit priest- has a similar quote about,” when we look at nature we get a reminder of paradise and the original Eden.” He says someday the earth will be a paradise restored again via the second Adam. Someday the earth will be restored again. This is in his book -“No man is an Island.” One on my favorite spiritual writers.

    • Michael, when I was a student I read Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, and found it remarkable, but this quote is about all that I remember vividly about the book:
      “Tell me, why is it that even when we are enjoying music, for instance, or a beautiful evening, or a conversation in agreeable company, it all seems no more than a hint of some infinite felicity existing apart somewhere, rather than actual happiness – such, I mean, as we ourselves can really possess?” WOW, did that hit home. I was reminded of that when I read what you said about Merton’s quote. The words of 2 Peter 3:13 are a wonderful consolation amid the trials of life!

  14. Michael

    Here is the actual passage from Merton.

    All nature is to make us think of paradise. Woods fields, valleys , rivers and the sea, the clouds travelling across the sky, light and darkness, sun and stars remind us the world was created as a paradise for the first Adam, and that in spite of his sin and ours the world will once again become a paradise when we are all risen from death in the second Adam. Heaven is mirrored in all created things.
    If we have God dwelling in us making our souls His paradise then the world can become for us what it was meant to be for Adam – a paradise.

    If we are not grateful to God we cannot taste the joy of finding him in His creation. If we are grateful then we can laugh at despair.

    • Michael, thanks for sharing this. I so agree that all nature speaks to us of paradise; even when it seems to include touches of sadness or cruelty, it only serves to remind us of the words of Romans 8:22. I especially like the phrase: “If we are grateful then we can laugh at despair.” It’s a challenging thought, but I do know that gratitude has kept the wolf from my door (in an emotional sense) more times than I can count.

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