My daughter has a book called My Giant Story Book. Among classics like Cinderella and The Elves and the Shoemaker sits a story I had not heard before. The Little Fir Tree. Here is a summary of the tale:
A small tree lived in the forest. Though he was pretty, he was not happy. He longed to be tall.
When woodcutters came and felled the largest trees, the Little Fir Tree was saddened. He bemoaned, “Oh that I were tall and old and could leave the forest.”
Christmas came and many other trees were taken from the forest. The Little Fir Tree wondered where they were going. A sparrow came along and said he had seen through windows in the village the other trees decorated beautifully with lights and surrounded by presents.
That news caused the Little Fir Tree to wish he were one of them: “Oh, how I wish I were decorated and in a warm room.”
The fresh air and sunshine whispered to the Little Fir Tree to be happy and rejoice that he was young and free. But he would not be happy.
Unexpectedly, the next year he was the first to be cut down. He was called splendid and was placed inside a cozy room. He was adorned with gold and silver balls and fairy lights. He gleefully anticipated what would happen next. Wrapped gifts were placed underneath him.
Evening came and the lights were turned on. Children clapped their hands and danced around the Little Fir Tree. He was so happy!
In just a short time, the lights were turned off. Then the people either went home or to bed. They took the packages and sweets with them.
The Little Tree was disappointed but assumed that in the morning he would be decorated again.
But when morning came, he was dragged to the attic and forgotten about. Months passed. The mice who played on his branches pitied him for being old and unwanted. He was sure pleasant times would come again.
One day he was carried to the garden, which gave him hopes of new life. The children called him ugly, and he sadly remembered the time when he had been lovely. Before the gardener came and made a bonfire of the Little Fir Tree, he thought, “Oh, how I wish I had been happy when I was young.”
When I first read this aloud to my kids, it struck me as an odd story to read to children. This may be the saddest story I have ever read. Actually not necessarily sad, but hopeless and hollow.
A lot of people I speak with in December sound frantic. They desire more time to prepare for holiday. They have too much to accomplish. They feel pulled thin like taffy with all the concerts, parties, and other opportunities vying for their merriment. Many moments are missed.
Is anyone living in joy? Are we all busy busy busy? Buying, wrapping, baking, decorating, attending parties. Hanging heavy expectations on one day, Christmas.
Please. Embrace your time. This very moment. Don’t wish away your life. Don’t look too far down the road to the destination that you expect to reach. Sit still and consider what it means to feel peaceful. Look around you. Right now see the beauty you can see.
Sure, look forward with hope to a joyful tomorrow. Sure, plan your life to be fruitful and filled with rich experiences. Anticipate goodness. But do not lose sight of what is in front of your face at this moment.
This is a trap for me. I repeatedly arrive at a destination I have anticipated and immediately begin calculating my next move.
But I fear coming to a point when I will look back over my life with despair, recognizing too late all the smiles, sunsets, gifts, friends, joys, meals, games, storybooks. Moments.
Life is a collection of moments.