“Thought-Snapshots” (A 2-minute post from London–on contemplating delight.)

Two nights ago I was in a meeting with colleagues, discussing cultural implications for resilience among young people, and then off to a dinner with friends at a favorite eatery in downtown San Diego.  Last night I was crammed into an uncomfortable airplane seat for 11 hours, flying across seas and continents.  Tonight I sat in an old theater in London’s West End and watched Tyne Daly—an artist who has inspired me and challenged my thinking for years—as she gave a powerful and moving live performance on lessons of lost-love, purpose, and beauty.  Tomorrow night I shall be with some of my kids, at home in Uganda—where again I shall be inspired and challenged with more than notions of love, purpose and beauty.  These three life-gifts dwell there, and I can’t wait to get home.

Do you ever have a thought-snapshot like the above?  Sometimes my paragraphs aren’t as cosmopolitan.  They more often refer to places like Sonic, and a meeting about diapers—but they almost always bring me back to love, purpose and beauty.

One of the elementary schools I visited in New Zealand last year featured a bulletin board reminding students and faculty of Howard Gardner’s insights with regard to multiple intelligences.  I snapped a picture, and emailed it to him.  (I did a research project with him when I was at Harvard.)  He quickly replied that he got “a real kick out of the pic,” and went on to thank me for taking the time to share it with him.  I mention it in part because it’s fun to namedrop (I’ll be honest), but also because the notion of a brilliantly famous mind such as his getting a “kick out of” a simple classroom display—well—it spoke to me as well.

What are you getting a kick out of these days?  Allow your mind to visit a recent snapshot of days that mattered to you (better yet, write it down), and reflect on it.  What emerges as important in these snapshots?

At the aforementioned dinner, we shared a sorbet sampler.  “Oh that’s so good,” I said.  “What’s in that?”  My friends tasted, and tasted again, until finally they were able to figure it out.  That sample had been infused with tea.  An unexpected ingredient had brought delight.

These thought-snapshots can help us pinpoint those things that infuse our life and bring delight.  Often our emotions are saying of a moment, experience or thought-snapshot, “Oh that’s so good!”  Sometimes that’s expressed through laughter—or tears; through a robust joyfulness—or a profound peace; the whistling of a merry tune—or the silence of a Selah-moment.

The next time your spirit tells you that something is “so good,” I invite you to take a few minutes to savor it.

And then to identify a perhaps-unexpected infusion… that has made it so.

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Nathaniel is CEO of AidChild.org. He holds a Master's Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University where he was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and winner of the 2010 Harvard HDP Marshal Award. He also holds a PhD in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego where he was the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership, and a Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration. Nathaniel is author of "We Are Not Mahogany: Three stories about the male African life." Prior to his move to Uganda in 2000, Nathaniel was Deputy Director of the Office of the Governor of Arizona, and Director of Education at Leadership, Inc.

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