We live in a house that is adjacent to a very active railroad track. When we first moved in about 8 years ago, we heard all the trains (estimated at about 25 each day) during the day and night. As time has gone on, we notice them less. Our congregation did us a great favor this past spring and replaced all the windows in our house. The house was built in 1970 and these were the original windows that came with the house. They had begun to be very drafty, rattling when a strong wind came up, and letting air escape from inside the house as well as admitting air from the outside to come in. In April, a work crew installed all 26 windows in one day, replacing the 42 year old windows with new modern ones that are energy efficient and reduce outside noise a great deal. Now, there are times when we do not even notice when a train is passing by.
Last Sunday, we had some dinner that my lovely wife had made and were cleaning up the dishes. I had placed a dish in the sink and looked up just as a train came from the west. At first I did not recognize what was printed on the engine as it made its way through but it sunk in by the time the 3rd to 4th car passed. Each car had a sign that read--"Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus." The circus train was passing through our town! I excitedly called to my wife for her to look out the windows too and she joined me at the kitchen sink and we watched each car go by. There were passenger cars with one having a man standing on the little balcony at the end of it. There were cars hauling freight that the circus needed so as to do its job. There were long ones with automobiles riding on them. There were refrigerator cars perhaps hauling food for humans and animals. There may have been cars containing animals...none were labeled as such but who knows what was in each car. Each one boldly displayed the label of that famous Circus Company though. The entire train was made up of cars carrying something necessary for the circus to be presented somewhere down the line where the tracks go.
Once the last car of the circus train passed, my wife and I just stood there for a few seconds and smiled. To think that what we consider as part of everyday life, and even as a nuisance at times, can bring thoughts of joy and happiness as well. If we had not taken the time to notice this particular train going by, we would have missed seeing all that the circus had to transport and then translating that knowledge into memories of going to the circus in years past. It has been many decades since we took our kids to the circus when they were young but we still remember how exciting it was to see all the participants of the circus and to enjoy the special skills they had. It was thrilling to see the animals, some very exotic ones that we rarely see outside of a zoo, also performing the talents they had been taught.
The railroad track beside my house is a lot like our lives are on a daily basis. It is always there and there are trains going down that track every day, many times a day. We usually do not stop and see what is being carried down the tracks because we assume we have seen it before many times. We do not stop and look because our inner selves tell us that it will be the same as we have seen before so why bother. Every now and then we are surprised by what we see going down tracks, as we were with the circus train, and when that happens it reminds us of how close to us the world passes by daily.
I live in a small town of just over 2000 persons. The town is open and alive during the day but by dark, it is mostly silent with its residents hibernating at home or gone to the larger cities which are only 1 1/2 hrs away. Most of the time there is little excitement to be had in our town but now and then something big happens. When we take the time to look and listen to our lives, we may see "something big" happening even in the smallest of things, something that astounds us as we reflect upon it. It may not announce its hugeness to us in some way that makes us take notice but we may suddenly "wake up" and see with our eyes what we normally do not see.
Take the time to see what is in your world today. Notice the people and the animals and the cars going by. Notice the smiles on faces in your world. Notice those who cannot smile because pain is part of their daily existence. Notice the great diversity that exists even in a town where we may all know one another or we think we do. Notice what you normally do not notice and then think about what you notice. Then, tell yourself that you will do this on a regular basis. I think if you do, then you will be changed by the very act of simply noticing what is around you.