I turned my head at just the right moment.
The couple next to me, maybe in their mid-sixties picked up their styrofoam cups and toasted to one another.
She called him darling and he helped her clean her plate.
A casual Thursday lunch. They were simply celebrating life and enjoying each other, as if it were the most normal way to spend your day.
My eyes stung with tears as I continued to wipe down the table next to them. I didn’t have the nerve to tell them that it was a rare kind of thing to see people who carried such a simple appreciation for the person next to them. Few people could throw an elegant celebration amongst old tile floors and dark wood paneling.
I pulled myself together and put all my feelings on the back-burner of my mind as I finished my shift.
Afterwards, the day became tangled with errands and tasks, processing life and working through my own issues that I forgot all about them.
But as I settled into my bed last night, I remembered those two cups in the air and the smile on her face and I found myself finally letting those tears finally fall down my face. I wished that I had leaned over and asked “Whats the secret? What’s the secret to having a life that leads to saying ‘cheers’ and rejoicing over hotdogs and sweet tea?”
Because I think we wait for special occasions and days circled on the calendar to really stop and say, “Life next to you is a joy and doesn’t need clanking glasses and rounds of applause. This styrofoam cup will do because your familiar laugh, the wrinkles around your eyes, and the way you’ve stuck with me through the years can make these plastic plates and ruffles potato chips look like the finest banquet.”
Life on its ordinary and unremarkable days should be celebrated. The people who show up in our lives day after day deserve more than a birthday card and occasional word of gratitude.
Maybe there’s no secret. Maybe it was right out there in the open for me to plainly see. It’s laughing in the monotony, and learning to be thankful in the midst of weekly routine. Maybe it’s looking up from our phones, our plates, and really seeing the person across from us and saying: I still like you, even after all this time.
Maybe it’s not letting the disappointment in our own lives stop us from fully and outwardly admiring the strangers who show us that even the dime-a-dozen days can remind your tired heart that the world is still full of breathtaking goodness.
Tell someone you’re thankful for them today. Make it a habit to make ordinary days full of grand and not-so-grand gestures.
The secret is simple after all: celebrate your life and the people in it.