Beauty in Humble Places

On the first day of school in that one-room, country schoolhouse, most of the other kids raced to the bigger, newer, shinier desks.

But little Diane, the one with a gleam in her eye and potato in her lunch bucket, who would one day become my mother, slid knowingly into the smallest, most unassuming one of them all.

Beauty in Humble PlacesThis image of my mother came to me after rummaging through a closet in my parent’s basement years ago.

Crammed between dozens of scrapbooks and albums was a thin blue folder containing a 32-page stapled-together autobiography she wrote for a college class.

As I sat down on the floor and flipped through the pages, the poetic reminisces about her old beloved school desk reached out and tucked a loose strand behind my ear.

 “How much more interesting it was to sit in that old desk and trace with my finger the carvings that withstood with dignity the efforts of sandpaper and varnish,” she wrote.

Even as that little girl, my mother was the person I’ve known all along, quietly captivated by a beauty many of us overlook. A kind of beauty often overshadowed by the more prominent, head-turning ones. A kind of beauty found in humble places.

But I’m not simply talking about the beauty found in the carvings of an old piece of furniture. I’m talking about the rich glow within the lives of those often gracing the edges of a crowd.

momfoldedhands2•The soft-spoken girl patiently waiting her turn at the end of the line. She never says an unkind word or elbows her way to the front. If only given a chance, she’d be that friend who’d stop and wait for us to tie our shoe while everyone else runs ahead.

• The woman holding up the check-out line as she digs through her purse for her debit card. She turns to us apologetically. What we don’t know is that she devotes her days to bathing, dressing, feeding her daughter born with a rare, neurological disease. Today, her husband came home during his lunch hour, so she left to buy a few groceries and a new heating pad.

•The older gentleman in the car ahead of us, the one with his blinker still on. He’s on his way to pick up a prescription for his wife of more than half a century.  He cares for her the best he can. There are a few things in his life he’d do differently if given the chance, but one thing’s for sure: he’d share it all over again with the same remarkable, hazel-eyed girl.

•The one, who at midlife, stands in a dim-lit kitchen finishing up the dishes, carrying on her/his duties with dignity “despite the efforts of sandpaper and varnish,” such as a recent loss, some difficult news, concerns for a loved one, a lingering grief, an unmet dream, a life that’s nothing as was once imagined.

•Any one of you reading this right now who carries a quiet heartache, and yet, you’re the first to notice and reach out to the hushed joys and sorrows in another.

To each of these treasures, what I want to say is this: forgive me for the times I didn’t bother to take a closer look. Because in those moments I do pause and peer into the luminous story within you, its glow often dimmed in the shadow of more crowd-turning ones, my soul is forever etched by your authenticity and warmth. This world needs more of you.

Julie Jo Severson, former college newsroom junkie and PR girl, is now a mother of three and freelance writer with two desks. This is the one she doodles on about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace.

To view her other recent posts at Carvings On A Desk,  Click here.

To read more about what she and this blog are about, Click here.

To check out her other desk, Click here. 

AmazonCLICK HERE to learn about the brand new collection of stories Julie recently collaborated on with Christine Organ, called HERE IN THE MIDDLE: Stories of Love, Loss, and Connection from the Ones Sandwiched in Between.

About Julie Jo Severson

Julie Jo Severson, former PR girl, is now a freelance writer, journalist, editor, and lost-and-found attendant for two teens and a tween. This is where she doodles about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace.

23 comments on “Beauty in Humble Places

  1. Such a beautiful and powerful way to finish this week’s sentence, Julie. I could feel the old desk and loved the way that you tied sandpaper and varnish into the woman doing dishes, dealing with something we can feel but don’t quite know. So powerful. Thank you.

  2. OH Julie… what a GIFT this post is to read. Your words speak into my soul… your message will be planted in my heart, as I look more intently on those moments that are somehow buried under the hurried busyness of life. I LOVED this. Profound, and powerful. It’s just so wonderful to connect with you!!

  3. Your Mom sounds like a wonderful friend and role model. It must have been delightful to find that essay and be able to connect with her in that way. I also liked the way that you were able to transition into looking for compassion in everyday life. Great word pictures of situations where a little extra understanding would mean so much…

  4. Thanks Anna. You’re right. It was a real gift for me to connect with my Mom through her words and thoughts from all those years ago. That’s a big part of why I’ve started this blog–so that one day my children will have a family narrative they can take with them wherever they go. I also love your comment about the word pictures. That’s exactly where I was going with this. Thank you for stopping by

  5. Well this was just the loveliest thing to read on this hot Sunday afternoon. I’m right there with you in the lineup behind the old guy with his forgotten turn signal. We really do need to salute the quiet, no need to stand up and wave or ask for thank yous, stalwart types. I have a few of them in my own family. Thank you for reminding me to fully appreciate them.

  6. Kelly, thank you for stopping by on a hot Sunday afternoon. “Salute the quiet.” Love that. But instead of a polite gesture of respect, let’s take the time to “fully appreciate” as you said and to embrace and to include and to invite and to cherish.

  7. If only each of us took the time to see the rich glow in everyone. This piece made me feel like I exhaled a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Your imagery is powerful and the message one I will take to heart.

  8. Jules, I’m so glad I took a few minutes out of my hectic day to read your wise and kind words. A day where I would likely tailgate the older gentleman driving too slow, or sigh with impatience for having to wait for the woman to dig through her purse at the checkout. Thank you for the reminder to slow down and have compassion and appreciation for others. Loved this, and absolutely love your writing! Thanks for sharing it!!
    Jenni

  9. Well, you made me cry. Thinking of those I know who are like this, hoping that despite my own hidden wounds, there are days that I am like this. Lots to think about. Thank you for that.

  10. Thank you, Kit, for your kind words. I have my share of less-than compassionate moments, but there are real faces and names to each and every one of the humble beauties I describe here, some near and dear to me; others in passing. We all do the best we can and have places in our hearts where we can improve.

  11. Such a wonderful piece…Makes me want to stop, look around and appreciate the things I usually don’t notice,…Thank you for this and your mother sounds like a wonderful, wonderful woman…

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