Even if his checkout line is a little longer, I always choose one particular bagger’s lane. This conscientious young man reminds me of a former special education student who brightened my first year of teaching. If I needed to move a chair, Dan* was there, refusing to let me lift a finger. If I was about to open a window, Dan was quick to say, “Let me do that for you, Miss Macy.” If he heard I was having car troubles, he’d offer to take a look during his lunch hour. Amazingly, Dan offered the same kindness to all his teachers and fellow classmates. Dan struggled with academics, but in altruism, he excelled.

This particular bagger resembles Dan in looks, but especially in mannerisms. The first time he bagged my groceries, I could see he was cut from the same cloth as my former student–he was a helper, too.

“Hello,” said the young man as I pulled up my cart.

“How are you today?” I asked.

“Doing pretty good,” he said with a slight slur and a big smile.

As the man carefully bagged my items, he leaned against the end of the checkout stand to support his uneven posture.

We chatted about the heat and the cat treats I’d purchased as he filled my cart filled with bags. When he got to the two last bags, I watched curiously as he gently hung them in an unsuspecting place. A few inches below the cart handle were two tiny metal rungs just big enough to hold a bag.

“Wow! That’s a clever idea. I’ve never seen anyone do that before,” I commended.

My 13-year-old daughter’s head quickly turned from the row of celebrity magazines to see what all the fuss was about. Her face showed equal surprise.

“That is a good idea!” she complimented the man.

The customer behind us peered around his loaded cart and nodded. “Hmmmm… That’s new to me,” he agreed.

Even the unsmiling cashier stopped ringing up items to look up. “That Steve*,” she said flatly, “He comes up with some good ones.”

And that’s when I turned and looked at Steve.

It was his moment… And he was shining in his moment.

“Can I borrow your idea sometime?” I asked the beaming young man.

Steve nodded enthusiastically, “Sure. Just be sure to get the bag right on the hook—and nothing too heavy,” he advised.

As my daughter and I pushed our cart away, I glanced back at Steve. He was still shining. He was still feeling his moment. Please never let me be too hurried, too distracted or too impatient not to notice these things, I prayed in my head. I decided the best reminder would be a picture; I could make it my screensaver.

When I got to my car, I snapped this photo. Suddenly, three words came to mind: low-hanging fruit.

image 4395

In the business world, the term typically means a quick fix that produces ripe, delectable results or a target that’s easy to achieve.

Yet, there is low-hanging fruit in everyday life, too.

It’s in welcoming faces, accepting voices, and loving touches.

It’s in quiet acts of generosity that seek no recognition.

It’s in heartfelt conversations, sustained eye contact and lingering hugs.

It’s in the sky and the clouds and the birds and the wind.

It’s in the songs on the radio; it’s in our loved one’s laughter.

It’s in handwritten notes and handpicked flowers.

It’s in the words, “Have a nice day,” as you leave the building.

When you notice and acknowledge the low-hanging fruits of everyday life, gratitude washes over you and has the potential to spread to those around you, creating positive results.

But when you neglect to see the low-hanging fruit–perhaps due to hurry, impatience, over-commitment, need for control, perfection, distraction, exhaustion or stress—you’re more likely to focus on what is wrong. This focus often results in complaining, criticizing, self-absorption, hostility and despair, which also have an impact on those around you, but it is negative rather than positive.

But awareness is a game-changer.

Awareness is a life-changer.

Once your eyes have noticed ripe fruits, you can’t help but look for more.

Since spying those bags and witnessing Steve’s reaction, I’ve been on a mission to look for the low-hanging fruit in everyday life. Educator and poet Glenis Redmond has name for this life-changing practice. She calls it “cataloging beauty.” Let her powerful, poetic truths soak in for a moment:

“I am not against critique, but the world’s need to nick pic everything is a dis-ease. What I crave is holiness. We are so far away from the heart, when only the head leads with only what is wrong. How about the million beauties you walked by today and did not see? Name them. The world needs/ I need your catalog of beauty. What is your catalog of beauty?”

Thank you, Glenis. I have begun my catalog of beauty:

I found it in the handwriting of my 6-year-old nephew’s thank you card.

I found it in my father’s birthday candles–77 years blessed–and the cherry pie my husband made for him.

I found it in a flour-dusted counter top with apron-clad girls being supervised by a kitten in a fruit basket.

I found it in a colorful butterfly that followed me on my walk.

I found it in a new friendship, clearly orchestrated by something far greater than either of us.

I found it in two rescue cats, one big, one little, that decorate our windowsills.

I found in the voice of my daughter while being accompanied by her three best friends.

In just a few days, this eye-opening practice has confirmed exactly how I want to live my life. I refuse to waste any more precious time cataloging my gripes and grievances. Instead, I want to catalog what is good and holy and helpful and true.

Because the truth is this:

The country needs
The community needs
The man who bags my groceries needs
My family needs
I need
my catalog of beauty.

And I know exactly where to find it.

Life’s divine beauties are right under my nose, ripe and ready, just waiting to be noticed.

I shall notice. I shall bring attention to them. And I shall watch them shine in their moment.

It will be mine, too.

*Names have been changed