I was at the gym recently with my friend Dave. After we’d picked things up and put them down a while, as we sat to have our traditional post-workout protein shake, Dave picked up a nearby magazine and started to thumb through it. There was a picture of some kind of luxury sports car on the front. If you were going to pay me a million dollars to tell you what kind of car that was, I would still be broke.
Dave asked me, “Man, if you had all the money in the world, what kind of car would you want?” For some reason, this struck me as an odd question. First, I don’t think I could list for you 10 make-and-model combinations of any car, much less tell you what they look like or what is good or bad about them. In my world, cars get you from point A to point B. I’m quite happy with and proud of my own car, which now has topped 300,000 miles. Lots of memories with people I like have happened in, around and because of that car.
I feel loved when I drive my old beater. I don’t imagine I’d feel loved in the car I can’t name from the magazine cover.
I see the rust holes gaping in areas of my car; but rather than wishing I had something new and shiny, they serve as a reminder that all new and shiny things eventually rust. They are not a source of happiness, though they can feel that way in a moment.
The other day, I went out to my car and found it had changed color. It used to be brown. But it was now greenish-yellow, covered in thick pollen. Within the last month, I have moved to a new place – after 20 years – and now have a hose with which to wash my car. Ahhh … simple pleasures. I pulled my car up closer to the house, cranked the spigot, and began blasting my car back to its normal brown and rust colors.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted what I was sure was an emerald dropped by someone. It was truly brilliant.
As I walked over to pick it up, it moved. It was no emerald. It was a living, iridescent gem.
I had never before seen such a brightly colored species of insect! Where had it come from? I’ve been known to have critters show up at my place all the way from South America. My adrenaline was up at the sight of this rare and beautiful specimen — much more so than viewing the whatchamacallit car on the magazine.
I grabbed my cell phone and took the very picture that heads this post. I sent this wonder of nature to family and friends, sure they would be as amazed as I was.
My brother John responded simply: “It’s a six-spotted tiger beetle.”
However had he identified it so quickly? He must’ve used a sophisticated, new app, I ascertained. I headed right for my computer to find the same app and discover which continent this lost insect had flown so far from to arrive in my yard.
Turns out that this six-spotted tiger beetle is “the most commonly seen type of tiger beetle,” a species which flourishes in New England. Debbie Downer. ::WAAHT waaah::
Why had I never noticed one before, if it were so common?
This got me thinking. Here I was, sure I had found a rarity – a living, breathing, exotic emerald. Yet if the all-knowing Internet were correct, these buggers were all around me. Every day. Strangely enough, since then, I have seen no fewer than 10 of them. What changed?
I was noticing. I was looking down and around me, instead of straight ahead at my car when I left the house. Rather than my mind being on “next,” is was on “now.” And I saw things that had been going on around me the whole time – for the first time.
I will probably never own a car that costs half-a-million dollars. To me at least, that is not a treasure, because it will never be part of my world. But other things are within my world, available to me now. Beauty. Wonder. Experience. Interactions with people. Things that get the pulse racing. What’s more, these things are free.
All of this got me wondering – what else have I been missing by not being intentional with my attention? Who else might I be missing? Some of my best friends of a lifetime have been met seemingly by chance, and only because we were both paying attention at the right time.
I’m all for dreaming. Cars aren’t my thing, but they may be yours. Notice them. Learn their names if you like. But don’t get sidetracked from the real treasures all around you right now.
Your kids will only be this age once.
The stars will only look exactly this way tonight.
This opportunity to encourage someone in just the right way – a way only you can do – will pass in a few moments.
This summer will only be this summer with all its little wonders a short while longer before another fall comes.
Leave the windows open and listen to the night rain.
Stomp in a puddle.
Sit on the porch and listen to the spring peepers and crickets.
Experience the now going on all around you, while it is still here in all its glory.
We are as rich as we choose to be.