As I was sitting at the beach in my Happy!Place last month, waiting for the sunset (because, let’s face it – beach sunsets >> everything else), I noticed a family of four a couple of meters away from me. One of them was sitting in a wheelchair. While I was photographing and taking in the peaceful moments of the waves crashing in and the setting sun on the horizon, I couldn’t resist stealing a glance over to them every once and a while.
After the sun had disappeared, I decided to make my way over to them. “Sorry for gate crashing, but I have been watching you for a bit and, well, this really moves me that you gave her (it was an elderly woman in the wheelchair) the chance to be here at the beach and watch the sunset.” (After all, moving a wheelchair in the sand isn’t an easy task.)
They were very happy that I talked to them, and so we chatted for a bit. Turns out, it was their grandma in the wheelchair who had barely survived a stroke and, against all odds, fought her way back to life. With a childlike enthusiasm, she was now throwing little stones into the water and had a blast doing so.
I told them: “This is what life is really all about – enjoying the little things, like a sunset on the beach.” They agreed with me on that. “So as I have said, it really moves me deeply that you made it possible for her to enjoy the sunset, too. At the end of the day, this is all that matters – those little precious moments in which we were happy.” And trust me, the whole family were happy – because of what I said to them. When we parted ways, we said goodbye and wished each other a nice evening.
As I was walking back to my hostel, I kept thinking about this encounter, and I still do at times.
The enthusiasm with which the lovely old lady was throwing those little stones. All of them huddled together watching the sunset. The peacefulness of the whole scene. It left a mark.
It’s kinda sad that in this hectic, fast-paced, greedy world we tend to believe that the Big Things like an expensive car or a big house whatsoever are the things that make one happy. (They can do, don’t get me wrong, but for me those are rather temporary.) But because of that, we also tend to overlook that it is the little things that make life so much more valuable. What use is the fast car sitting in your flashy villa’s driveway when you feel that there is something missing? Or when you think that status is all that matters, so you keep buying those expensive things but as soon as you have them, you feel that they’re not enough? Sure, shopping can be satisfactory in a way, but at the same time, it isn’t. Because as soon as someone else has something better, prettier, … you feel you have to outdo them. It turns into a never ending rat race.
And in my opinion, this is also dangerous. Because it’s not fulfilling, but instead makes you less and less appreciative of WHAT YOU GOT.
And one day, probably when it is way too late, you start to realize what has been missing all those years – those moments when you felt TRUE happiness. Peace. Where you smiled because of something that at first seemed so unimpressive, but then, in the long run, turned out to be so much more. The cute dog you saw the other day. The flower you stopped by to admire its beauty. The smell of freshly mown grass. Or the air after a lush summer rain. The sand underneath your feet. The taste of a meal that still makes your mouth water. The laugh of a little kid. A joke someone told a while ago. A bumble bee that’s busy flying around in your garden. The song of a nightingale (or any other songbird) outside. That book you’ve been meaning to read a while ago and finally get around to. The smile of a random stranger on the bus. A postcard someone sent you.
All those little, insignificant things … and you suddenly realize those were the BIG things. Things you carry in your heart forever. Things you cannot pay for with all the money in the world. Because they are priceless.