A Radical Thing

There used to be a shelf in my bathroom that was uncared for. It wasn't big. Maybe three inches by 25 inches.

It used to hold the little bits and pieces that fill up bathroom shelves - stray bandaids, old jars of expensive cream that seem too expensive to toss, half-used containers of expired mouthwash, nearly-empty pill bottles. And dust. The shelf held lots of dust.

It used to.

One day, the dust was gone. The bandaids, the cream jars, the mouthwash, the pill bottles - it was all gone.

And where they once were lay five pale sea urchin shells. Soft green, coral, lavender lined up just so along the small shelf.

Then, days later, something else. Between the sea urchin shells, there were three little glass bottles. And in each glass bottle was a single purple flower no bigger than a quarter.

I remember when I saw it all for the first time, the flowers in their bottles and the shells on their shelf, my whole face softened.

My roommate had done it. She had looked at the same small shelf I had. But as Thoreau wrote, "The question isn't what you look at, but what you see."

And she had seen an uncared for place worthy of care. So she spent her love on this small act of beauty. It only touched a three-inch by 25-inch piece of the world. But that makes it all the more radical, doesn't it?

For surely it's a radical thing to see what others only look at, to love what others left uncared for.

If we save our acts of love and our acts of beauty for all the big and uncommon things, we'll be saving so long and spending so little.

So now there is a shelf in my bathroom that is cared for. There is another piece of the world that has been seen.

And there is another piece of the world that has been loved.

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