It was one of those perfect sunny summer days several years ago with giant feathery clouds dotting a bright blue sky. I was walking the Davis Creek Trail in Kanawha State Forest in awe of the sky and the trees and little purple and yellow flowers popping up here and there. Everything was perfect, except one thing. It was hotter outside than I expected and I had left the house without a hair tie to hold my heavy hair out of my face. “Oh well”, I thought, “I won’t let a little piece of elastic distract me from an otherwise perfect day.”
At that moment I looked down at my feet, and there was a discarded hair tie laying on the ground like a tiny gift from the universe. I picked it up, smiling, preparing to wrap it in my hair, when a thought crossed my mind, “I bet people will think I’m crazy if I use this. I don’t know where it came from. I teach the kids at my school they’re not supposed to share brushes and hats and hair ties.” I dropped it back on the ground and kept on walking.
After five minutes or so of silently hiking along the path, hair weighing heavy around my face, I felt a wave of regret. I realized that I had been offered a gift from the universe and I’d pitched it. I had allowed convention or social norms or fear of what someone might think cause me to discard my tiny gift. I felt ridiculous. I wondered how many times I passed up on little gifts from God, how many times I failed to notice them at all, how many times I simply refused to accept them.
Tiny gifts are all around us. They can be a spontaneous adventure, an offer of help from a friend, a quick and easy connection with someone, a quiet moment in solitude, a compliment from a stranger, a little unexpected opening of time, a letter in the mail, a wave of gratitude, a little touch of grace, a hair tie on your path, and a million other things. We just have to tap into them. We just have to notice them, really notice them. We just have to accept them and enjoy them and be fully present for them.
A few days later I was walking the Sunrise Carriage Trail and found myself in the same position. It was a beautiful hot day, and once again I had forgotten to put my hair up. I laughed at myself for making the same mistake, knowing that it was unlikely I would ever receive that same gift twice after discarding the first one so precariously. As I took my very next step, I noticed a little circle of elastic right beside my foot, another hair tie, another tiny gift.
Well, you can imagine what I did at that point. I picked it up and tied my hair into a messy ponytail without a second thought. It didn’t matter where it came from. It didn’t matter how it got there. I felt this sense that it was left there exactly for me and exactly for this moment. I finally got my perfect day, and all I had to do was accept it.
Before this happened I never noticed a single hair tie on the ground. But ever since that experience, I see them on almost every trail and walkway where I pass. They are little reminders to me, like God winking at me from a distance. They remind me that tiny gifts from the universe are scattered all along my path. I just have to pay attention. I just have to be fully present for them. I just have to accept them. And so I do, as much and as often as possible.