I stepped onto the landing at the top of the stairs to call them up for bedtime. But first, I listened.
I heard Oliver running and jumping and then Lucy saying triumphantly to her little brother,
You did it! You completed the obstacle course! Now, perform your most precious dance.
I heard his five-year-old feet shuffling and tapping on the wood floor as she clapped. I imagined his long, lanky limbs shaking loose and free like they always do when he dances. At the time, I wasn't sure why the whole unseen scene made me cry.
I was set off at her word choice - precious. It didn't seem to fit. It would not have been the word I would have chosen in the situation.
Those seemed to fit, but - precious?
of great value
not to be wasted or treated carelessly
greatly loved or treasured by someone
Sometimes I save my best.
Sometimes I hide it away and try to perfect it before I present it.
Sometimes I am afraid of it.
Sometimes I am ashamed of it.
Sometimes I just don't know what to do with it.
Sometimes I fear wasting something so I don't touch it, don't let it see the light of day. I tuck it away safely in a box until just the right moment when it will be offered to the world.
I wish I were more generous with precious things, like my children.
Lucy loves greatly and there are things she greatly loves and she tosses them out like confetti, even in an empty room. And it's never wasted. It's not done carelessly but because she cares so much. I care too, yet sometimes my own hands, full of confetti, remain timidly stuffed in my pockets.
Oliver drops his head and narrows his focus and gives it everything he's got - whether he's a dancing fool or a lightsaber-wielding Jedi. He doesn't give a second thought to what others think about it. He goes all out. He doesn't care if he has an audience of zero or a zillion. I wish I could say the same for myself but too often, the opposite is true.
What precious dance, poem, painting, or simple thought have you been holding onto? This life can be an obstacle course and every day we complete a section of it. Some days are more challenging than others but with each accomplishment we carry something precious from the journey.
Will we keep those
precious pieces of art,
precious expressions of who we are and what we are learning
to ourselves until we can be sure they will not be wasted or will we just offer them up generously wherever we find ourselves - whoever we find ourselves with.
The dance, the precious dance, is the response. The response to what we have seen or heard or experienced. As a writer my words are my response. For you it may be something else. But our responses are always precious. Because what we take away from life is of great value. It is a treasure.
I didn't even see that dance in the basement, but I treasured it. It was of great value to me. And I know a little brother who may have kept it to himself if he didn't have a big sister encouraging a generosity of spirit.
We don't have just one most precious thing. I've found that when I offer something precious something else springs up and then something else. The more we offer it, the more we find it.
I can't help but remember the Lord of the Rings and how 'precious' can have a perverted meaning too. We must be careful not to attach it to an object rather than a person or experience. Let the thing that you hold close also be the thing that you offer up first. A piece of yourself crafted by holy hands for all the world to see.
Maybe this is the year to toss confetti in the air and dance like nobody's watching.
Maybe this year we can be brave enough to offer up the precious pieces of ourselves in new ways. Will you do that? I promise to stand by clapping like crazy for you.