Padre Paul's Ponderings: Think Little

Hard as it is to believe, this week marks the beginning of the Minnesota State Fair.

The Fair is something that is truly engrained in me. I have gone every year since I can first remember. In fact, if someone says they aren’t going to the Fair, I might give them the “oh that’s nice” Minnesota line, and wonder if perhaps they are from Wisconsin or out of state. Not go to the Fair? By choice? How is this possible?

In all seriousness, I get the Fair is not for everyone, and it can also get a bit expensive especially if you are going with a lot of people. But one of the reasons I look forward to it each year is for the simple things that it brings that are wonderful to enjoy.

For one there is the food. One need not get into the strange stuff, the best things are the foot long hot dogs, cheese curds, and the malts, and an amazing Iowa import called the “gizmo,” an Italian beef with mozzarella you can find near the Pet Building (you’ll thank me when you find this wonderful stand).

Then there are the photo ops. The Fair is a favorite subject especially at night, because I love photographing the Midway (though the last time I was on a ride was a very long time ago), and the various food vendors who are all lit up after dark.

And of course there’s the booths with the literature, the pens and the things that will go in a bag and sit someplace in my home until they are thrown out mid-October. And the people watching too, along with the media and local celebrities and daily parade and of course Fairchild the Fair Mascot.

Indeed, each year is the same. I take it all in, often sit for a while on a bench, and think “this is great.” My Fair Day usually is about 9 hours at minimum, and some years entails two trips. It’s well worth it, even if my heart sinks a bit as I leave knowing I am saying farewell for another year and soon to my favorite time of year, summer.

This year, I was fortunate to be selected to have a photograph displayed at the State Fair in the Fine Arts Building which is also for sale there (I’ll have another copy I’m donating along with others to the parish for the Harvest Festival). It’s not of the Fair though, it’s of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was part of a trip I was on last fall, and I returned there and to New York a couple of weeks ago too again taking a number of pictures. And it got me to thinking about why I fell in love with not just the Fair but photography, and that is I hope to help people enjoy the simple things more. By this, what I mean is that there are so many things that go by each and every day, and we miss them because we are too busy or over-scheduled. What I try to do through photography is capture things that make people think a bit and see the beauty that is all around them; from the glory of the Brooklyn Bridge, to the birds in their back yard, to a tranquil waterfall or the stars in the sky above them. Indeed, there’s so much out there. You look at something like the Brooklyn Bridge, or walk around New York City, and you think to yourself “wow what an amazing place to just take in and enjoy.” But for that to happen, one has to open their eyes to what is around them.

So whether you intend to go to the Fair or not, or whether you enjoy photography yourself or aren’t that into it, one thing I hope you can truly do each day is try to stop and smell the roses, and take in the beauty that is the world around you. I think it’s especially worth remembering as summer wanes and we head into what can be a busier time of year with school starting in a couple of weeks, fall activities, etc. Value the daily little things and make time for them in your life. Have a family dinner. Go for a walk. Spend some time in the yard. Watch a sunset. Have an actual conversation and not a text message back-and-forth. Play a game with your children or grandchildren. Count the stars in the sky. And in all things, give thanks. Bring these things to prayer too, and maybe along with asking for needs and help, give thanks to God for the blessings in your life, and keep a copy of that list to look at for the moments when you might be tempted to think you are a lot worse off than others who seemingly have it so much more easier or so much more than you.

I have not seen the film, but I saw a poster with the characters from AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books promoting the latest film about a grown up Christopher Robin who apparently has become so busy with life he’s forgotten about his childhood friends and needs a reminder of how to live again and find happiness now with his own family instead of being a miserable busybody. The line on the poster from the rotund little bear was “Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing.” Apparently the full line from A.A. Milne is: “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” Some pretty good advice. We all have to be busy and do things and work – that’s important too. But so too is looking at all that is around us every day. You don’t have to go to the Fair or New York to find beauty in the world or in your life, it’s all around you in the simple things, so take it all in and give thanks for it, because it’s a true blessing.

Hope you have a Fairly good week ahead,

Fr. Paul

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