Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

I see in the newspaper that the flashing lights of the Eiffel Tower are being turned off earlier each night to save energy, something visitors to Paris might find a little sad. The French landmark is a big draw for tourists who like to savor the City of Lights, and I also considered it an obligatory stop when I first visited Paris in 1991.

Even so, the most vivid memory of my trip back then didn’t involve a part of Paris likely to end up in a guidebook. One evening, a friend I was traveling with suggested that we take a walk with no particular destination in mind, letting Paris reveal itself on its own terms. Days of following an itinerary had worn us down, and we were ready to follow no plan at all.

This was how, on a quiet block, we happened upon singing in an ancient neighborhood church. A choir was practicing inside, its harmony floating through an open side door and into the street. Enchanted, we went in and stayed a spell, enjoying choral music beautifully rendered in French. It was lovely to hear a language with such special resonance in my home state of Louisiana, the voices of the singers animated by a palpable sense of faith.

That evening taught me a lesson I’ve tried to remember, though it’s one I often forget. It’s the simple truth that while we’re seeking the headline experiences — the trip to the Eiffel Tower, the trek through the Grand Canyon, the cruise to a tropical port — those smaller moments that sneak up on us often contain the biggest windfalls of grace.

I’ve been thinking about all of this with the approach of another Thanksgiving, a time to reflect on the big things sure to inspire gratitude.

Some obvious blessings will come to mind as I join other bowed heads around the holiday table. Our daughter got married this year. Our son made his own successful trek to France over the summer, a capstone of sorts as he prepares to graduate from college next spring. My wife and I each attended high school reunions, another one of those events in our personal calendar that helped boldly underline how lucky we are.

But the year brought smaller, though equally striking, windfalls of fortune, too. My job required me to attend a national convention in Orlando last August, and as I was standing in a ballroom during the hospitality hour meeting new friends, it hit me: This is exactly the kind of fellowship that seemed distantly impossible during the darkest days of the pandemic, and now it’s been restored to us.

Maybe Thanksgiving, at its best, inspires us to recall such lowercase blessings — little wonders, written in the fine print of our ordinary hours, that we’re usually too busy to see.

That’s my hope, at least, as autumn draws a curtain on a tired year.

Email Danny Heitman at danny@dannyheitman.com.





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