While a young mother waits at a post-office-counter, her four-year-old daughter occupies herself with the opportunity for self-entertainment, exploring the lobby, looking, prattling, not an item left untouched.
The girl finds a penny on the floor. “Look momma,” she says proudly, “a penny!”
Her mother, busy with a clerk at the window, mumbles an acknowledgment. Others in line smile, while some shake their head and cogitate about the regrettable decline in discipline. The girl walks to the other side of the lobby and places the penny back onto the floor. Feigning surprise, she says, “Look mamma, I found another penny!”
Delighted, she keeps at her enterprise, placing the penny in a different location, until she has found five pennies, each one of them brand new.
We must risk delight.
We can do without pleasure,
but not delight.
Yes, the story is infectious in its charm. But then… my “consumer mentality” kicks in. And I want to know the answer to the “HOW” question. You know, “how do we live that way?” After all, it must be a matter of technique. So… what are the steps? And what is the secret?
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760 and founder of the Chassidic movement) was asked: “Why is it that Chassidim burst into song and dance at the slightest provocation? Is this the behavior of a healthy, sane individual?”
The Baal Shem Tov responded with a story: Once, a musician came to town–a musician of great but unknown talent. He stood on a street corner and began to play. Those who stopped to listen could not tear themselves away, and soon a large crowd stood enthralled by the glorious music whose equal they had never heard. Before long they were moving to its rhythm, and the entire street was transformed into a dancing mass of humanity.
A deaf man walking by wondered: Has the world gone mad? Why are the townspeople jumping up and down, waving their arms and turning in circles in middle of the street?
“Chassidim,” concluded the Baal Shem Tov, “are moved by the melody that issues forth from every creature in God’s creation. If this makes them appear mad to those with less sensitive ears, should they therefore cease to dance?”
They dance because they have tapped (in the words of George Fowler) the “unmined gold” that is inside.
Infectious indeed. “Look mamma, I found another penny!”
Okay. So here are the steps.
Step #1: Sometime today, take delight. It sounds so simple. And yet, we find any number of ways to rob delight of its essential joy.
(I love to cook… the tastes, scents, a glass of wine, the camaraderie, the process. But this week I saw an infomercial for the magic bullet, which promises to make the fastest omelet ever, in 10 seconds or less. So now, cooking has changed; from a delight, to a race. Someone please tell me, this is beneficial… how?)
In our earnest need to focus on the correct way (or the fastest way, or the approved way), we keep both delight and the dance in check. After all… what if, God forbid, it all gets out of hand? I saw this sign posted by a large company’s HR department: “No hugging, touching or complimenting.” No complimenting? Yes, because we all know how excessive complimenting can be a serious liability.
Ballet artist George Balanchine was asked, “What is your ballet about?”
“Just dance,” he responded.
“Yes, but what’s it about?”
Finally, he said, “I’d say it’s about fifteen minutes.”
Maybe, just maybe… it’s about the dance.
Physical and spiritual growth cannot be reduced to mechanics. I’m all for getting the mechanics right, but spiritual growth is more than a procedure; it’s a wild search for God in the tangled jungle of our souls, a search which involves a volatile mix of messy reality, wild freedom, frustrating stuckness, increasing slowness, and a healthy dose of gratitude. Mike Yaconelli
“In Hebrew the opposite of holy is chol, which is translated not as ‘profane’ but as ‘empty’; in other words, ‘not yet filled.’” writes Irwin Kula . “The word for holy in Hebrew is kedusha. A more accurate translation of kedusha is ‘life intensity.’ To be holy is to be intensely dynamic, ever-changing, and ever-realizing. The Biblical command ‘You Shall Be Holy’ is an invitation to celebrate what philosopher Mark Taylor calls ‘a maze of grace that is the world.’ Live as richly and passionately as possible; that’s as close to meaning as you will get.”
Step #2: Share your delight (your discovered penny) with someone else.
Tonight I sit on my back patio (enjoying my glass of Bordeaux), and drink in the solitude, the birds at the feeders, the energizing spring air and the vibrancy from the outrageous buds on the peonies, swollen and ready for their annual floral cabaret. “Look,” I say to the sky, “I found another penny!”
To experience delight is a risk. And to share it with someone is also a risk. But when we do so, we are affirming that there is indeed another way…
In this life, we can risk loving.
We can risk living less than tidy lives.
We can risk asking for less than perfection from others (and ourselves).
In a glance. In a word. In a touch. In a gesture, there is healing and kindness and hope… and the permission to dance is offered. We cannot change the pain in our lives or the lives of others. But we can accompany each other, and along the way, look for pennies…