The Small Pleasures of Life

Grateful for their tour / of the pharmacy, / the first-grade class / has drawn these pictures,
each self-portrait taped / to the window-glass, / faces wide to the street,
round and available, / with parallel lines for hair.
I like this one best: Brian, / whose attenuated name / fills a quarter of the frame,
stretched beside impossible / legs descending from the ball / of his torso, two long arms
springing from that same / central sphere. He breathes here,
on his page. It isn’t craft / that makes this figure come alive;
Brian draws just balls and lines, / in wobbly crayon strokes.
Why do some marks / seem to thrill with life, / possess a portion
of the nervous energy / in their maker’s hand?
That big curve of a smile / reaches nearly to the rim / of his face; he holds
a towering ice cream, / brown spheres teetering / on their cone,
a soda fountain gift / half the length of him / —as if it were the flag
of his own country held high / by the unadorned black line
of his arm. Such naked support / for so much delight! Artless boy,
he’s found a system of beauty: / he shows us pleasure / and what pleasure resists.
The ice cream is delicious. / He’s frail beside his relentless standard.
—“Brian Age Seven” by Mark Doty

Maybe it’s because I live with my own seven-year-old, first-grade artist who exudes the same such, delicious passion for life. Maybe it’s because my Dad owns a pharmacy with a soda fountain and, in the same such spirit, generously gives time, attention, and love to the kids of my hometown. Maybe it’s because we are entering into a season when we culturally set aside time for thanksgiving and gratitude. Maybe all of these reasons—and others—contribute to why I love this poem. And I do love it so! It feels me with such joy! It reminds me that the beauty and simplicity and delight of our world are abundantly present in the small pleasures of life. 
What fills you with delight these days? What fills you with hope? Even with the compounding pressures, conflicts, and concerns of our daily lives, where do you look to find joy? To feel gratitude? To experience life’s deliciousness and pleasure? If you were to take out some crayons and draw a picture of beauty, what colors and images would fill your page? As for me, I have my crayons in front of me, and I am drawing a picture of our World Communion celebration a few weeks ago—our table filled with a rainbow of breads and fruits and vegetables; our congregation standing in a circle holding hands; and our kids serving us communion with such reverence, pride, and joy. I can hardly think of anything more beautiful.

See you in church,