A father and his son were driving down a country road. The son looked out the window and saw piles of trash and dying trees. “This road is disgusting,” the son muttered.

Meanwhile, the dad gazed out his window and said, “What are you talking about? This is one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever driven down.”

The boy was annoyed at his father. Why couldn’t he just admit that the road was ugly? He remained silent for the rest of the drive, sullenly staring out the window.

Decades later, long after his father had passed away, the son found himself driving on that same country road. Gazing out the window, he saw a beautiful, pristine river glittering in the late afternoon sunlight, with hundreds of yellow flowers along the banks of the river swaying in the wind. The son couldn’t believe his eyes. This was the beauty his father had seen so many years ago.

He looked out the window on the passenger side and saw the same trash-strewn, dead grass that he had seen as a sullen teenager. All he had needed to do to enjoy that moment with his father so many years ago was to turn his head and look at the beauty his father had seen.

At least once every day, I focus on a relatively ‘ordinary’ blessing.

I often feel like that sullen teenager seeing only the trash on the side of the road. Uncertainty and fear shrink our horizons and perspectives so that we can only see a narrow slice of reality. It’s hard to feel grateful for all the gifts in our lives, to turn our heads and see the beauty from another person’s perspective.

So recently, I’ve been committing myself to what I call the “the one small, good thing” challenge in which at least once every day, I focus on a relatively ‘ordinary’ blessing:

  • the smell of a hot cup of coffee at dawn
  • the way the sunlight streams through the leaves of the tree in front of our house
  • dinner with my family
  • the feel of warm laundry right after it comes out of the drier
  • a beautiful sentence in a book I’m reading.

And noticing one small, good thing every day has enabled me to see beauty in places I’ve never noticed before:

  • I saw a guide bring a little, blind girl to the beach and watched her break out in a huge smile as the wind caressed her face as she gazed out at an ocean she couldn’t see.
  • Running in a nature reserve I usually raced through, I stopped to look and saw an alligator raise its head in the shadow of the rising sun.
  • I saw the sky reflected in the water as if the whole world was upside down, the tops of the trees reaching down into the depths of the pond.

Images from our whatsapp group

I started a whatsapp group with my mother and children where we share each day one small, good thing. One of my daughters named the chat: “Grateful Today.” We each post a photo of something that we are grateful for that day. The pictures connect us in gratitude across the world from New York to Israel to Florida. The photos have ranged from the gorgeous, skyline view from my mother’s courthouse chambers to a picture of one of my daughters with a good friend. One of us posted a photo before sunrise of a scented candle that flickers in the window, lighting up the darkness before day slowly rises. Another photo was of a cup of tea.

And even as I post my photos on our Grateful Today chat, I realize I’m still just one complaint away from becoming the sullen teenager in the car who can’t see – won’t see – the beauty. We hold onto our narrow perspectives of how we see the world because we think they’ll keep us safe. Why is it so hard to let go? Maybe we are still looking out the wrong window? David Wallace once wrote: “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks in it.”

It’s hard to let go of seeing the world only through the window in front of us. Let’s muster the curiosity and courage to turn our heads to see the beauty on the other side of the road.

Start by looking for that one small, good thing today. Because sometimes one good, small thing becomes everything.