Manda was standing under a bridge, her tent in the frame behind her, smiling through tears. Interviewed by homeless advocacy group, Invisible People, she shared how she gets through being homeless by looking for beauty in the world each day. By letting herself enjoy birds singing, a colorful leaf or the aroma of coffee, gives her the strength to move through each day.
A mixture of shame and inspiration, went through me, watching the video on my laptop, in my cozy office, a plush throw blanket wrapped around my shoulders as I sipped herbal tea, a snug reward for a hectic day with work and parenthood—with life. It was clear to me as I watched the video that I had a problem with perspective.
Poet John O’Donohue defined beauty as “that in the presence of which we feel more alive”. But not only that, beauty is a connection, that when we experience it, we feel a sense of love, the presence of God’s love.
So caught up in my day, I didn’t notice God’s beauty, His love, all around me that day. Even in the midst of her struggles, Manda took time to notice, she showed me the way.
I took a deep breath and prayed. Lord, show me the beauty in today and sat still, letting the memories of the day wash over me.
I laughed at my husband’s attempt at latte art on the coffee he made me that morning. Not sure if it was a heart or a leaf but I know the sweet sentiment behind it. I thought how my two-elementary school aged sons had held hands while they walked to school. Oblivious to my presence behind them as they chattered about Mindcraft to each other. They are each other’s favorite person. And that afternoon, while running errands in the car, a long-forgotten song came on the radio, flooding me with memories that brought tears to my eyes.
Then I thought of Manda, this beautiful woman, that God loves so deeply, her resolve to see beauty even in the cold and filth of her life. If that’s not beautiful, I don’t know what is.
In moments, my day transformed from hectic to rich as I saw the beauty and God’s loving Presence throughout the day. A Psalm flashed in my mind,
One thing I ask …to gaze on the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4)
I prayed for the grace to see each day through this lens.
The next morning, I opened my laptop with my morning coffee to read up on Manda. The video I had watched was an old one, not only inspiring me, but many more, including a nationwide company who sponsored her new apartment. A new video showed her glowing as she gave viewers a tour her empty apartment, then an updated status that read “singing in the shower is under-rated”. I resolved to sing in the shower that morning.
That afternoon, stuck at a red light in rainy day traffic, I fought the urge to give in to frenzy. Lord, show me Your beauty. I prayed as I looked out at the wet street in front of me. An old Asian woman with a small shopping cart stood under a bus shelter, rearranging her groceries, preparing them for the bus arrival. A lemon escaped from her bag, rolling towards the street. An African American teen slouched at the bench with headphones and a hoodie pulled over his head, sprang into action, grasping it before it splashed into the gutter. Handing it back to the woman, she said something and the two break out into laughter. She pats him on the arm before the arriving bus blocks my view.
It’s in moments like this that I understand why Ralph Waldo Emerson called beauty, “God’s handwriting”. The light turned green and I placed my foot on the gas, eyes open to see more.