I’m stealing that title from C.S. Lewis. He’s a much better thinker and writer than I am, so I hope he and his fans are not insulted. And when he wrote about what seemed to him to be the greatest surprise in life, he was writing about things much loftier than I have in mind.
I’m thinking about coffee. My wife was standing at the kitchen counter making the perfect cup of coffee one morning. Our granddaughter was standing on the stool next to her.
“I want to stir it”, she said.
The creamer had settled to the bottom of the cup. She took the spoon, leaned in to get a good look, and stirred. There was an explosion of creamer that swirled inside the cup, the coffee changed color, and she was surprised by the whole experience. She gasped. Her eyes lit up big as saucers. Nothing but pure joy could describe the giggle and laughter that ensued.
It makes me think about how much joy gets overlooked because we take for granted so many of the things that don’t surprise us any longer. I mean, who gets excited about watching creamer mix with coffee? I don’t even use creamer in my coffee. Real coffee is black. I’m a Waffle House coffee kind of guy.
“Can we do it again,” she asked. “Of course,” said Nana. To witness pure joy is an act worth repeating.
It’s a shame that the surprise wears off and the enchantment of life escapes us as we get older. Gushy mud squished up between toes. Rain on a tin roof. Singing “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie” at the top of your lungs. A country road with the windows down. I’ve experienced all those things, but on most days, I’m not really surprised by much anymore.
Where did the element of surprise go? Did I lose it like a set of keys? Did it just vanish like my ability to bend over and easily pick up a sock off the floor? Wonder. Amazement. Marvel. Small miracles.
“Where have all the children gone?”
Joy is probably one of the reasons that the spirit of “little children” will inherit the Kingdom. Even though the surprise goes away after you’ve seen or done IT a few times, the joy is still there. We just forget how to find it. And the solution is not to be childish, but to be child-like again.
The satisfaction of delight can be found in all kinds of places. A good biscuit smothered in gravy. The feel of clean sheets. The warmth of a fireplace. A young boy holds the door open for a lady. An elderly couple walks the aisle at Walmart holding hands. And there it is. Joy.
“Do it again,” she says. “Coffee, please,” I say to the waitress. “One black. One with cream. Bring a spoon.”
As long as she reminds me of the child inside, I can do it all day long.