Be thankful for the little things. This anonymous quote is painted in white letters on a square piece of light brown wood that sits on a small table in my room. I read those words everyday, and they always look the same, but they are always changing to me. You’d think they’re so simple that they’d have a single, clear meaning, but every time I find myself in a situation that calls this quote to mind, it’s for a different reason. This quote appears in my life like a melody in a song. Melodies adapt to what surrounds them, and can apply to infinite variations of accompaniment. The way they are perceived can change with the instrument through which they are delivered. Notes played on a piano will sound different on a violin, and melodies sung to a country swing will sound different sung to an indie rock. One weekend on a trip to California, this quote had followed me, and presented itself on two unique occasions.
My club volleyball team had a tournament at UCLA. On Saturday, I woke up early, played several games against different teams, and became exhausted. The day did not consist solely of volleyball, however (that would have been nice). Because we had driven in a car for eight hours the night before, got little sleep before the tournament, and lost all of our games, the day consisted of passive-aggressive comments, confrontational comments, and did-you-hear-what-she-did-I-can’t-believe-her comments. Dealing with all the theatrics became more exhausting than the actual tournament. For me, the day got worse when my teammates decided there wouldn’t be enough time for the beach. But I wasn’t about to go to Cali without going to the water, so I convinced my parents to make a late night trip down to the pier. Traffic was bad, and I was starting to get a headache. I began to second guess the late night excursion entirely. But once we were finally by the ocean, I was glad we had gone.
I looked into the water and let out a deep breath that carried the weight of the day. The blue-green waves moved slowly and rhythmically as if breathing. The intermittent “whoosh” of the small waves breaking on the shore was calming. The air smelled like salt water and seaweed, but more than that, it smelled like my memories. It smelled like sandy feet and wet hair. It smelled like searching through sand for sea glass and sea shells. It smelled like building sand castles and burying my brother in the sand. It smelled like boogie boarding and body surfing.
We spent only about twenty minutes on the pier, but my childhood memories filled me with uncontested happiness for every one of those minutes. This moment quickly became one of the little things I was thankful for. Like a melody, the words sounded sweet in a way that will always be specific to that moment. Those twenty minutes brought me to a moment of peace and nostalgia, and I was grateful. This melody was like a symphonic song that focuses emotions and finds balance among competing elements.
The second time the image of those white cursive words came to mind was the night of the drive home. That day had been even longer than the first day. Tension between the girls worsened. I ended up sitting the bench most of the day. I got frustrated with the girls, our coach, and at that point, the whole trip. While riding back with my dad, I sulked about how horrible the tournament had turned out. We stopped to grab some food at small burger joint before we hit the freeway. Because the day had me so upset, I didn’t feel like eating much. I took maybe three bites of my burger and ate a couple of fries. I was about to throw out the rest when a man from the corner booth asked, “Are you gonna eat that?” I told him I wasn’t and set the tray on his table. He nodded, picked up a fry and continued watching the small tv screen mounted to the wall.
Be thankful for the little things.
This time, the melody of the words was thoughtful and somber. This time, the melody made me thankful for my bad day. Because of a bunch of dumb, little things that didn’t matter, I made myself too upset to eat, so a man got a warm meal. It was silly for me to have been so upset, but I’m grateful I was. It was just one day, and it was just one meal, but I was grateful, nonetheless, that it worked out that way, and I became grateful that the hardest part of my life at that moment consisted of a few girls acting catty. This melody was like a folk song that tells a tale and calls for self reflection.
This little melody played for me twice that weekend in two different genres of music. The two situations had little in common. I was thankful in both but not in the same way. I understand that many people would see being content and thankful as a reason that would cause you to lose drive. Being content, a person would have less motivation to create goals or pursue a better future. However, it would be exhausting living an entire life in pursuit of something better. We should appreciate the melodies in our life because without melodies, there would be no songs. Without songs, there would be no music. Melodies make up the world around us. We should take the time to listen to them.