Simple joys

At vaguely this time last year, I wrote about the great mystery of Christmas, of God abiding on Earth.  As I don’t think I can sum up how I feel about Christmas any better, I won’t, but will mention something that struck me on Christmas morning.  This year, as the children at church demonstrated some of the presents they had opened before venturing out in the rain, I was struck by the differences between gifts and the levels of happiness shown by the younglings.  A couple had whizzy technological gifts – a laptop and a PSP – and seemed quite content with those.  Others had clothing, a table tennis table or a dolly that does most of the things that real babies do.  But the child who seemed happiest with what he had received was proudly demonstrating a small plastic elephant, part of a Lego (or Lego-style) zoo set.  He didn’t need it to dance, make noises, move, or even connect with other bits of the zoo.  It was an elephant and that was enough for him.

He had been given other presents, of course, but a few plastic animals made him happy, and that warmed my heart.  In a year when parents have been selling their kidneys (metaphorically, one hopes) to secure a PSP or a Wii for their demanding offspring, it was comforting to see so much pleasure being taken in something so simple.  My favourite children are always those with a healthy, active imagination, those who can play with a few milk bottle tops stuck on a cardboard box and turn it into the console of the TARDIS, or a laptop or whatever they need for their game that day.  They’re more tiring than those who just want to get out their latest console, but so much more rewarding, so much more real, and so much more likely to be the future in any meaningful way.

It also made me ponder on how much I manage to enjoy the simple things in life.  Bread and cheese.  A warm bed.  The sunrise.  These are the things that really make life worth living, surely.  A turkey roast with all the trimmings beside a twinkling Christmas tree which can sway in time to carols played through your laptop is great, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I wonder whether the simple things in life aren’t more worth having in some inexplicable way.

In a song from Pippin, Stephen Schwartz’s lyrics suggest that a man who cannot appreciate the ‘Simple Joys’ of life, such as sweet summer evenings and sharing a supper, is somehow chained, might as well be dead.  “Wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea… than a man who never learns how to be free, not till the day he dies.”  Simple joys at Christmas include my mother’s face when she opens any present (you could give her a box of tissues and she’d still be delighted); receiving communion at the midnight service; discovering what somebody at work thinks you might like in the secret santa; and sprouts.  I love sprouts.  I’m a big fan of most green vegetables in fact, so that’s perhaps not surprising.

Christmas is a simple thing and a profound thing, as is life in general.  I should perhaps resolve to spend more time appreciating the simple things, not just at Christmas, but all year round.  What are your simple pleasures?

    • Teuchter
    • December 27th, 2007

    I’m with you on the sprouts, SL – in fact, I’ve just polished off a plate of cold left-overs from last night’s dinner. They were crunchy, garlicky, lemony, salty, peppery, butterly wonderful.
    Probably just as well I’m not working this week.

    Simple pleasures?
    Playing extremely silly board games with my husband, three children and their assorted friend, and an aged parent – and shrieking with laughter while we did so.

  1. I also love sprouts and other green vegetables 🙂

    I think I would have to say it is lying in bed listening to raindrops falling.

  2. Board games and rainfall – I’d definitely agree with those.

    My non-Christmas picks would include warm fresh bread and any song with a cheesy key change for the final chorus! I’m a sucker for a cheesy key change.

  3. Mmm, sprouts. Yum. Christmas-wise, I love listening to and singing carols, chestnut stuffing and bubble-and-squeak.

    Otherwise, simple pleasures include looking at the sky, being in the garden or out in the countryside, interesting conversations, reading a good book, sitting in peace and quiet or being among friends.

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