The streetlight stood tall in the sparkling sunshine of midday. From dawn to dusk, passersby looked up, marveling at the effervescent blue sky and the wispy clouds, but never noticed the stark, utilitarian streetlight.
The streetlight soared overhead with an unassuming confidence, knowing that come nighttime, its light would guide pedestrians and motorists to their destinations, shepherding them to their safe havens. Yet even when the streetlight illuminates the sidewalk and roadway, it remains often overlooked, taken for granted as a permanent fixture to the street corner.
Until, that is, a bulb burns out and the light is gone. Only then do we notice.
There are many streetlights in our life – people, relationships, enjoyments, and simple pleasures – that tend to go unnoticed. They are the people that support us without fail; they are the relationships that stay strong regardless of life changes and stressful circumstances; they are the everyday enjoyments on which we rely; they are the simple pleasures that calm us.
Yet, because of their steadfast, reliable nature, we take them for granted. We rely on them to a fault, believing in their infallible power to sustain us and we sometimes forget that their reliable light is dependent on our attention and maintenance.
Perhaps there is a person or relationship in your life whose dependability and permanence create a utilitarian quality to the connection. For me, two people come to mind: my sister and my husband. My sister is a calm, unflashy person in my life who, because of her constant presence and unfailing support, tends to be taken for granted. She never forgets a holiday or special occasion, she seizes every opportunity to send a heartfelt card or note. When my kids are getting antsy at a restaurant or ball game, she is the first one to offer to take them for a walk, despite the fact that she has two kids of her own with a third on the way. She lives close to my extended family and she is there for every family event. She is there, she is always there. And, as a result, her presence – her light – is sometimes taken for granted.
Similarly, the light that my husband provides for me and our family is constant and sometimes overlooked. The endless hours that he spends at a grueling job so that I can stay at home to raise our young children is assumed as a given. His endless energy to play with our sons even after a long, tiring day is a tacit understanding among everyone in the family. His patience with my emotional roller coasters and my petty dramas is an implicit dynamic to our relationship. The fact that I will vent and he will calm is as certain as the streetlight turning on come dusk.
Or perhaps you have a routine enjoyment or simple pleasure – a morning run, an evening bath, a favorite bedtime snack – that is taken for granted until a thunderstorm prevents the morning run, the hot water runs out, or someone else ate the last cookie. Only then to we realize how much we need these joys in our life.
These people, these relationships, and these enjoyments, deserve our mindful appreciation and exuberant gratitude. But even more than that, we must maintain and sustain their needs as well. We must intentionally notice and monitor their health and wellbeing, tend to their needs, and acknowledge their importance. We must explicitly and authentically thank and praise the people and relationships, and enthusiastically and unreservedly savor the simple pleasures.
The streetlight requires maintenance and tending in order to shine. People, relationships, joys and simple pleasures are no different. Life is busy. We get caught up in our own dramas. Let us not forget – let me not forget – to nourish and nurture them so that I can fully appreciate and enjoy the light that they bring to my life.
“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” – Frederick Koenig
What or who sustains you with their light?