Appreciating the Beauty of the Familiar

It can be easy to take some things for granted, even if it is our best intention not to. Here in Maine, we are surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty, for instance, and it becomes familiar to us to the extent that it can blend in to our daily lives. As such, it often takes a particular act of beauty on the part of nature to catch our attention, such as a radiant sunset, a visit from a cluster of deer, or a floral outburst in the last days of summer. The beauty, however, is persistent; it’s there all the time when we care to look for it.

In a similar fashion, we live in a society that most of us are fully accustomed to, having spent our entire lives in it. It is not uncommon for us to exchange greetings on the street with strangers, or even to spend the passing minutes sharing advice and well wishes with those we have never met. From the perspective of those who are not from our society – such as the Moraels of France – this kind of friendly, outgoing behavior is remarkably unusual. After speaking with the Moraels, I realized that I was taking our society’s amicable nature for granted. 

In the same way that the beauty around us here in Downeast Maine is always present and always worthy of celebration and admiration, so, too, are those sociable elements of American culture. While we can become desensitized to what comes naturally to us and what we see all around us, the gift of an external party’s perception can change that. I know that, for my part, hearing the stories of simple kindness and expression that the Moraels shared caused a feeling of profound appreciation for our everyday interactions and the evident good intentions behind them. The next time I sit down to have a conversation with a random stranger, I am sure I’ll reflect on exactly how special that seemingly casual exchange is.