One of my favorite writers, Raymond Carver, once wrote a short story called “A Small, Good Thing,” which concerned a husband and wife who experience the loss of a child and how, while meeting with the baker who baked the child’s birthday cake before the child’s death, encourages them to realize that life goes on, that we cannot take the things we have for granted, and that it’s important to appreciate the small, good things in life. The parents are understandably not interested in eating as a result of their grief, but the baker gets them to eat some freshly baked bread and shows that this ritual—this small, good thing—is necessary to appreciate the ordinary moments in life. It’s an emotional story and, like many good stories, has stayed with me over the years.
Recently, in the Zen Teacher Facebook group, a member posted this article by instructional coach, author, and writer Shanna Peeples where she talks about the importance of “doing something small and good.”
Naturally, I recalled Carver’s story and, as I pursue my mindful path, this idea of the “small, good thing” has come to the forefront of my awareness.
Focusing on a small, good thing on a regular basis can help us tune in to the ordinary moments in our lives and allow us to clarify the sometimes precarious balance between the stress we experience and the joy we pursue.
In other words, it gets easy to focus on the urgent, seemingly necessary things to do and get caught up in The Machine of Life and neglect to focus on the “small, good things” that truly make our life worth living—small, good things like music, good food, conversation with friends, spending time with our parents or children.
Another Zen Teacher recommended a book called Chasing Daylight, about a man who was dying of cancer and writes about how his impending death showed him the importance of what he called “Perfect Moments,” those ordinary moments that we often take for granted.
Interestingly, the ideas I’m presenting here are surrounded by the uncomfortable subject of death because often it is our proximity to death that helps us recognize the Yin/Yang of being mindful of those small, good things and our frequent inability to turn away from a more mindless existence where we take these things for granted.
But what I’m saying here is that we don’t have to wait until we’re confronted with death.
Live now. Enjoy now.
Find that small, good thing in your life.
Better yet, find MANY of them.
Embrace them. Celebrate them.
Breathe through them and experience them with every fiber of your being.
Everyone has small, good things in their life. They’re there; we just have to watch for them.
Like the parents in Carver’s story, it’s time to break bread with each other (and ourselves) and recognize the beauty in these ordinary moments. TZT