It occurred to me as I was driving that a smile, in the right conditions, can be like a pheasant (in the right conditions). There were dry fields to left and right of us as we cruised across the Hauraki Plains, and suddenly from the long grass at the side of the road burst a pheasant, which flew low and boldly in front of us.
The bursting bird (so to speak) reminded me of an almost inconsequential moment whilst walking, a few years ago, in a Hamilton suburb. A hunched, tattooed and hoodied man approached from the opposite direction, but I stifled my inner pre-judgement and looked him in the eye and nodded. He returned the most lovely smile – a flash of teeth and a warmth I never anticipated. And we walked on our ways.
I experienced the same joy as the pheasant flew across our bow, and I remembered the smile – and other similar experiences over the years. Of small bursts of beauty in an otherwise bland wilderness. Being surprised by joy – now that is really something. CS Lewis used the phrase as the title of his autobiography. “It was something quite different from ordinary life,” he wrote, “and even from ordinary pleasure; something, as they would now say, ‘in another dimension’.”
Most of us have experienced it, this being surprised by a smile, or a pheasant, and recognised it. Or perhaps we have recognised it but not realised it, if you get the distinction. So, be alert for it. Make note now: mentally note when ‘joy’ surprises you, because it is often lost; it can disappear so quickly from the mind. And draw full benefit from the pheasant bursting from the long grass or that smile from within the hoody. Let that almost guilty pleasure of a surprising blessing in a mundane setting animate you to the point of unbounded joy.
Then pass it on if you can.