God hides in plain sight.
I remember sitting on a train headed into the city where I worked. I had been going through a particularly challenging time, not able to see my way out of or through the situation, when out of nowhere a truck came along on the highway, driving parallel with the train. On its trailer, it bore one word in bold letters: G.O.D.
What do you make of a moment like that?
I knew the letters stood for the company name, Guaranteed Overnight Delivery, but it was what I needed most to see in that moment. The truck remained with the train as we crossed the bridge until we disappeared underground into the tunnel. I didn’t know if this was some kind of cosmic joke, or something much more.
When I exited the train, I couldn’t stop thinking about that truck. I had seen them on the road many times, never paying any mind to them. They were just trucks. But as I emerged from the tunnel, there parked directly in front of me was the same G.O.D. truck that had stayed with me across the bridge. I knew in that moment that everything would be okay, and it was. And I realized that the heavens didn’t need to open nor did the seas have to part for Spirit to communicate with me. All it took was a truck. In plain sight.
That was my cue to start paying attention to small, inconspicuous, commonplace things that I normally overlooked or took for granted. I became a connoisseur of the ordinary. Through the contemplation of the things around me, I began to uncover layers of meaning. I learned that “things have their within,” as French priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin reminds us; they have their own lives, and the only way to know them is to enter into partnership with them. When we do, we find them pointing beyond themselves to the profound. Life becomes a sacred adventure, and suddenly Spirit is everywhere.
To become a connoisseur of the commonplace means to live consciously with things. Let your attention be a tool for discovery and caring to help you to honor the presence of the sacred in everyday life.
Today, celebrate something that is considered an ordinary object but holds sentimental value. Set it in a place of honor, or in a place of high visibility. Give gratitude for its use(s). Make it a conversation piece with your family or friends and see where the conversation leads.
I used to keep a brick on my desk in my classroom. It served a practical purpose as a paperweight, but it held sentimental value for me.
My students often questioned, why the brick? Why not a traditional, more “normal” paperweight? I told them it was a gift.
“A brick? Who gives someone a brick? It’s just a brick,” I’d hear them say.
“It’s more than just a brick,” I’d say. “It carries its own story. It’s just a matter of listening to it and hearing what it has to say.”
“It comes from a building that was scheduled for demolition. That building was the hospital in which I was born. My father made a special trip that day to retrieve this little piece of history. It represents when I came into the world and when he became a father.”
And then the brick took on a life of its own, and my students couldn’t wait to get to know it.
Each day, look for the extraordinary in the ordinary, the not-so-common in the common, and take time out to celebrate the little things in life.