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What is the lesson of a “bright and beautiful day”?


When I was 20, I worked in Washington, D.C., which was about 50 miles from my home.  Those miles translated to at least an hour and a half commute each day, each way.  However many years later (wouldn’t you like to know!), I can still get a clear mental picture of the van and my fellow commuters, some of whom were more colorful than others.  For example, there was this one man in my vanpool that started each ride with, “What a bright and beautiful day!”  Come rain or come shine, “What a bright and beautiful day!”  And then he told every woman on the van how beautiful she looked.  I mean, this was a guy who tackled each day with a positive, grateful-to-be-alive attitude.  And he meant it, too!

The rest of us thought it was really annoying.

I know, I know…  But close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine it from our perspective.  Here, let me help… ok, so it’s 5:30 in the very a.m.  Maybe it’s freezing cold, it’s snowing, there’s ice all over the road – and here’s this smiling man telling you how beautiful it all is.  As if that weren’t enough, he starts in on how great you look, too.  And you’re stuck there, crammed into some kind of a human-sardine-can-that-you’re-stupid-enough-to-pay-good-money-for-experimental-torture-machine-thing, on a bad hair day, wearing one black and one navy blue sock because you dressed in the dark, generally feeling like a big scuz because you got up at 4:00 (in the very a.m.), and you don’t want to talk to anyone, much less him, because you really just want to close your eyes and try to get ten minutes worth of sleep on this crummy hour and a half ride to a job that you don’t love, but you just keep on working there because, well, you’ve got a job, and you can’t believe he doesn’t realize that everybody hates it when he says, “What a bright and beautiful day”, “What a bright and beautiful day”, “What a bri…”  Ahem.  Well, I guess you’ve got the general picture.

Of course, that was a long time ago (wouldn’t you like to know!).  Now I drive myself to work in a fraction of the time, and it’s a wonderful thing to use that time exactly the way I want.  I can listen to the radio or to a book on audio.  I can think, or make plans, or just talk to God, and I usually do some combination of these things.  It is certainly nice to be by myself, without people telling me what a beautiful day it is.  It certainly is.

So, not too long ago, I was driving along on my way to work, feeling certainly nice to be by myself, taking in the scenery and talking to God.  All of a sudden, I found myself telling Him, “Thank you, Lord, for this bright and beautiful day!”  Whoa.

The word choice shocked me – never mind that it actually was a beautiful day – that I had used those words, that exact phrase.  This is not something I say.  This is not something I had heard anyone else say for a long, long time.  A bright and beautiful day.

With a flash of realization, so many years later, I finally understood that my annoying co-commuter was right.  And I was an idiot.  In all those rides, on all those mornings, when I had felt such disdain for him, he was being an example of gratitude for us all.  I heard the same words day after day, but I never heard what he was saying.  He was a lesson I was not yet ready to learn.

Wouldn’t I love to finish this off with, “from that day on…” and tell you how I adopted the phrase “bright and beautiful” for myself – along with the attitude of thankfulness that accompanied it.  I’d love to tell you how I purposefully use those words as I make my way into each day that God has given me.  And I did do that…for a while.  But the truth of the matter is that my life is simply littered with lessons I have to be taught more than once.  And even more than twice.

It occurs to me now how many times Paul has instructed me to be thankful in everything, even when there’s ice, or snow, or buckets of rain being poured from the sky.  I promise you that I’m listening.  Still, don’t be too surprised when summer really settles in, if the question I’m asking is, “Why must it be so hot?”  Gratitude, Thankfulness…for me these are lessons perpetually in progress.

But God is patient.  Thankfully.

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