On the first day of school in that one-room, country schoolhouse, most of the other kids raced to the bigger, newer, shinier desks.
But little Diane, the one with a gleam in her eye and potato in her lunch bucket, who would one day become my mother, slid knowingly into the smallest, most unassuming one of them all.
This image of my mother came to me after rummaging through a closet in my parent's basement years ago.
Crammed between dozens of scrapbooks and albums was a thin blue folder containing a 32-page stapled-together autobiography she wrote for a college class.
As I sat down on the floor and flipped through the pages, the poetic reminisces about her old beloved school desk reached out and tucked a loose strand behind my ear.
"How much more interesting it was to sit in that old desk and trace with my finger the carvings that withstood with dignity the efforts of sandpaper and varnish,” she wrote.
Even as that little girl, my mother was the person I've known all along, quietly captivated by a beauty that many of us overlook. A kind of beauty often overshadowed by the more prominent, head-turning ones. A kind of beauty found in humble places.
But I'm not simply talking about the beauty that's found in the carvings of an old piece of furniture. I'm talking about the rich glow within the lives of those often gracing the edges of a crowd.
The soft-spoken girl patiently waiting her turn at the end of the line. She never says an unkind word or elbows her way to the front. If only given a chance, she'd be that friend who'd stop and wait for us to tie our shoe while everyone else runs ahead.
The woman holding up the check-out line as she digs through her purse for her debit card. She turns to us apologetically. What we don't know is that she devotes her days to bathing, dressing, feeding her daughter born with a rare, neurological disease. Today, her husband came home during his lunch hour, so she left to buy a few groceries and a new heating pad.
The older gentleman in the car ahead of us, the one with his blinker still on. He's on his way to pick up a prescription for his wife of more than half a century. He cares for her the best he can. There are a few things in his life he'd do differently if given the chance, but one thing's for sure: he’d share it all over again with the same remarkable, green-eyed girl.
The one, who at midlife, stands in a dim-lit kitchen finishing up the dishes, carrying on her/his duties with dignity "despite the efforts of sandpaper and varnish," such as a recent loss, some difficult news, concerns for a loved one, a lingering grief, an unmet dream, a life that's nothing as was once imagined.
Any one of you reading this right now who carries a quiet heartache, and yet, you're the first to notice and reach out to the hushed joys and sorrows in another.
To each of these treasures, what I want to say is this: forgive me for the times I didn't bother to take a closer look. Because in those moments I do pause and peer into the luminous story within you, its glow often dimmed in the shadow of more crowd-turning ones, my soul is forever etched by your authenticity and warmth. This world needs more of you.
This post was originally published on Julie Jo Severson’s blog Carvings On A Desk.