My coworker meticulously arranges vegetables on a platter in a mandala of crudites before whipping over to where I am setting tables, wordlessly readjusting the position of the forks I’ve just laid, and tsk-tsking about the slightly wrinkly tablecloth I’ve deemed perfectly acceptable to spread on the tabletop.
I find her attention to detail – to the appearance of things – as we prepare to feed a large group of low-income patrons of the community resource centre where we work – annoying. The pragmatist in me can’t see the point of tablecloths that will just get dirty, or why the raw carrots and celery couldn’t just be heaped in a bowl.
I’ve never been overly concerned about the outward appearances of things that are perfectly functional without the additional je ne sais quoi, I suppose. When I started out as a food blogger, it took me an inordinately long time to come around to the idea that I needed to “style” the food in my photos to make it look more appealing – that a sloppy hunk of brownie actually didn’t look as delicious as its more neatly squared-off counterpart.
I was equally skeptical when taking my Sacred Pregnancy Retreat Instructor training, during which I was introduced to a fundamental edict of the Sacred Pregnancy movement, called the “beauty way.” The idea of the “beauty way” was to try to find the beauty in all things, and celebrate it; magnify it. To make every aspect of our lives beautiful.
I was really challenged by this idea: to me, the notion of making something beautiful was frivolous if it were already functional. It’s not to say that I didn’t deeply relish the blaze of a hot orange sunset, a bloom in my garden, or an exquisitely glazed ceramic mug for my tea. But I found it unnecessary to expend extra effort and worry to add beauty to things that worked just fine the way they were.
But something struck me along the way – something that I had overlooked while sighing heavily as my co-worker polished the cutlery.
Beauty makes the ordinary extraordinary.
When serving dinner to folks whose lives are defined by struggle, a carefully laid out platter of vegetables has the mysterious power of making them feel special, and cared for – like they were worth the time it took to make the broccoli look “just so.”
Society has defined beauty as something that’s for special occasions, and for special people.
And it was upon understanding this that I realized that adding the extra flourish that it takes to make aspects of others’ lives beautiful – extraordinary – is actually a form of service to those we love. It makes them feel special, revered, and valued. Perhaps, by overcoming my skepticism about beauty, I discovered an incredibly powerful way to show others that I care.
How can you make your life, or someone else’s, more beautiful today?