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JAMES BEHRENS: Enjoy the little things in life because they are the most important

Miles after miles of highways zig-zag, crisscross, twist and overlap all across our country. I suppose that someone has figured out a rough estimate of how many miles they all add up to.

Along all those miles are billboards that advertise everything from restaurants to funeral homes. The letters have to be big enough to read from the passing cars. Many of the signs are huge, with images of beautiful people wearing exquisite clothing and beaming smiles.

Billboards take the ordinary and raise it to a higher level, which is often beyond the reach of the millions who look, read, and drive past. Not many of us can afford a Mercedes Benz or a week in St. Tropez.

It is understandable that we follow the big print that lines the miles and corridors of our lives. The big print always suggests that more is better, that our lives are not complete until we buy what is advertised.

A few days ago I was looking at some photographs offered on a photo sharing website. A young woman had taken a picture of a vase of flowers and next to the vase was a little card. Written on the card were these words: "Enjoy the little things in life -- for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things."

How true. But it runs against the grain of so much that we find all around us every day. We go for the bigger, the better, the long lasting, and the top of the line. If we cannot afford what we see as we drive through life, we harbor hopes that one day we will "arrive" and have it all. At least until the next billboard looms ahead of us.

I think we all feel the pull of the better.

But there is the truth of the smaller, the truth on that photograph I saw.

I think it is good that there are things we can hope for, things that give our hearts a lift. But when all is said and done, the words on the photo bring home an important truth. In fact, the words bring us back home, to who we are, what we have, what our hearts have been given in this life.

The words enshrine the importance of little things that are monumental in their capacity to grow with time and in that growth offer us the meaning of life.

Big things are often way beyond our reach. We can only dream about them, and in so doing we run the risk of dreaming away our lives.

Little things are always near. They demand our attention, our care. They are the seeds that gradually bloom into the love for which the human heart was made.

I cannot recall ever seeing a billboard urging me to go for what is small and commonplace in life. Now that I think of it, maybe that is because I already possess those things. And they are indeed wonderful. They are all within my reach, as they always have been, at home when I was growing up and now here in the monastery.

Looking back, my life has been filled with little things that turned out to be big things in my life. And I never pulled off the road to buy any of them. They were given, all as gifts. Good gifts that make the longest rides worthwhile.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers. His e-mail address is james@trappist.net.\