They are all there: the torn photo of the little girl, the crumbled picture of the wedding party, the ripped up school certificate. Mementos of strangers, scattered, torn and damaged, all carefully collected and curated by strangers so the prized possessions can go home. “Who does this?” I wonder, “Who goes through a pile of debris dumped by Mother Nature 20, 50, 100 miles from home because he or she might find some piece of a former life its owner thought was lost, because every material was lost?” It turns out that many kind souls volunteer to do this. When I look through the Facebook pages created to reconnect possessions, lost in the tornados that ripped through Northern Illinois on Sunday, with their owners – I see snippets of happier times from lives that suddenly went dark. I see the kindness of strangers who reach out to say, “You haven’t lost everything. You haven’t lost your memories.”
These photos of moments in random lives remind me that life is really a series of moments. Stop and think back on your life. I bet it isn’t an unfiltered category, but a personal slide show of unique memories. Do you replay the “firsts”: first kiss, first heartbreak, first day at work, first steps? What about the faces and voices? Can you remember the person who reached out to you in a tough time? Gave you a hug or a smile when you really needed it? Gave you a kick in the pants when you needed that, too? Isn’t that why we collect photos, journals, programs, ticket stubs, etc? It isn’t just “stuff”; these artifacts tell the stories of our lives.
One of the creators of the Facebook pages to connect lost items with their owners understands this. Explaining why she makes the effort, Becky Siegel-Harty shared that she lost a sixteen-year-old son last year. “If I lost everything, one picture of him would be the world,” she said.
Once again, it takes a tragedy to remind me that it’s the little things that add up to the sum of my life. This Thanksgiving, my intent is to celebrate the little things, the fleeting moments, that create my story. I may even find some time to look at old photos to remind me how lucky I am. The fact that I can is one of those blessings.
What about you? How do you celebrate the little moments of life?