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The Little Things


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Editor’s Note: Embracing the power of perspective, today communications associate Maria Beben launches a three-part series calling for reflection on “the little things” in life that are too often overlooked and unappreciated. Check back next Wednesday for the next installment.

When I was a student at The Catholic University of America, I had a very different view of Washington, DC, than I do now. It really wasn’t until my senior year that I realized how much I love this city. There are so many incredible opportunities that I didn’t take full advantage of during college. After four years in this city, I still feel that I haven’t quite bridged the gap from “tourist” to “local.” When I was in college, I saw what I wanted to see. I fell into my routines and didn’t stray much from the beaten path.

When I moved back to DC this  summer for the Nonprofit Servant Leadership Program, I made a resolution. A resolution to look around more. To look with a fresh set of eyes. To look a little longer and a little deeper.

As I carry out this resolution, I’ve been strongly impacted by the city as a whole, the good and the bad.

Here’s the thing: It’s easy to see the good in the world on sunny days when people hold the door open for me and give me a reassuring smile.

But then there are the days when even the weather seems to be against me. The days when I feel lost among the people rushing around me. The days when the metro doors slam shut in my face. The days when my heart breaks as a man on the street earnestly asks me for a dollar and I don’t have any cash or even a granola bar to offer him.

There are days when I’m weighed down by all of the injustice I constantly see around me. Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel completely helpless.

A few days ago when I was thinking about this, a scene popped into my head from the movie of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers. Regardless of how many times I’ve seen the movie, this specific scene still gives me chills. In a world torn apart by war and evil, Frodo (one of the main characters) asks Sam (his best friend) the very real question, “What are we holding on to?”

Sam pauses for a minute before he answers and when I saw this scene for the first time, I held my breath during this eternal pause. What was he going to say? What were they holding on to? What are any of us holding on to? What keeps an entire world of people moving forward when terrible things happen every day?

Finally Sam answers simply, “There’s some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for.” If you’re interested, you can watch the scene here. (It’s well worth your time.)

Even if you don’t know the whole story, there is such a beautiful truth behind this interaction between Frodo and Sam.

It is so easy to get caught up and overwhelmed by the negative, to shut down or check out of the world. But isn’t it better to look around and see the light as well as the darkness?

Though we shouldn’t ignore the reality of everything that is happening in the world, it’s so important to recognize the beauty that continues to exist if we’re open to seeing it. Think of those flowers you see on the side of the road. The ones that defy nature and manage to grow through the pavement. What if that’s how we all were? What if, in the face of ugliness and adversity, we refused to be trampled and instead pushed on and insisted that there’s still so much good in this world?

With this series, I hope to offer an opportunity to re-focus and expand perspectives of the world around us. Thank you for journeying with me over the next three Wednesdays as I try to focus on the little aspects of life that deserve more attention and reflection.

Reflection Question: How can you commit to looking a little longer and a little deeper to expand the lens through which you see the world?

Originally from a small rural town in New Jersey, Maria graduated from the Catholic University of America with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a minor in theology and religious studies. After spending a semester abroad in Rome, Maria felt a call towards service and simple living. Franciscan spirituality resonates with her, and she looks at the year ahead of her with enthusiasm and gratitude. During her time in college, Maria fell in love with Washington, DC and is excited to have the opportunity to continue to explore the nation’s capital. The Nonprofit Servant Leadership Program gives her the opportunity to learn about a non-profit organization while serving in the community with other like-minded young adults.