I’ve made some interesting and helpful discoveries lately. Why I didn’t see these things years ago, I don’t know. Distracted and not paying attention, I suppose.

One realization is about my clergy shirt and collar. Ever since I started wearing that garb (sometime in the 1980s), I’ve struggled to put the little metal stud into the back buttonhole on the neckband of the shirt. The stud is a post that holds the plastic “dog collar” in place on the shirt if a clergyperson is not wearing a rabat (a kind of vest). Somehow it dawned on me just a couple of months ago that I could put the stud in the buttonhole before I put the shirt on! It was like a revelation! Now I don’t have to twist and turn and risk dropping the stud on the carpet.

The other discovery was just two days ago. I’ve been with the church I serve about five years. The key to the outside door of the house where I have my study looks exactly like the one that opens my office door: brass, with a round head. I’ve marked the office key with a sticker, permanent marker, anything to tell it from the outside key. Nothing really lasted. On Wednesday I finally saw that my interior key had the raised word “Yale” stamped on it; the other one doesn’t. Now I can tell the keys apart, even in the dark, by feel.

These are hardly earth-shattering breakthroughs in human understanding. But I did begin to wonder because of them: How often are our lives or those of our neighbors and friends made difficult because we don’t pay attention to details or to our surroundings? We don’t bother to read the fine print on a contract; we assume everything will be OK. We fail to check a box in the settings on our computers, and the machines don’t work properly. We mishear a word in a conversation or news report, latch onto that, post it on social media, and suddenly there’s a flood of misinformation for which we are responsible. We text and drive, looking at the phone instead of the road, and we have a wreck. Focused on those same phones or on some other screen, we don’t notice beauty that is a gift of God, like the deer peeking out from the woods or the lovely colors of a sunset, and so we miss out on free help in lifting our spirits after a hard day.

It took me years to discover two little things that would make my work life simpler and less frustrating. I pray you don’t have to wait that long for your epiphanies.

©2014 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

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