So, here's the thing: we go looking in spiritual places and consult gurus and read self-help books to find answers. And sometimes answers are on the community board at Fred Meyer's--next to the fishing tackle and firewood for sale.
I was sitting with a client who only saw ugliness in her world--the unhappy people, the trash on the sidewalk, the noise and dirt. Sitting on the couch I prodded her to turn around, look out the window and see the beauty of the brilliant blue sky, the impossibly billowing clouds, the symmetry of the rooftops. "So, you're telling me to be grateful," she countered. "No, I am saying what you take in is what you reflect. You see ugliness outside, you take it inside. There is ugliness--that's reality. And there is beauty. You have a choice where to put your focus."
And, I realize, not everyone has that choice. The structural violence--poverty, crime, sexism, racism, etc. that prevents people from meeting their basic needs--is a reality in many people's lives. It's hard to see beauty when you are barely surviving. We should not forget that.
And for many people, though, whose basics needs are met, they have stopped being ready for the teacher to appear. They have been too disappointed, too disillusioned, too controlling, wanting a sign but only in the way they want it.
When I came upon this sign at Freddy's at the Oregon coast, I realized so many things: beauty is everywhere if we open our eyes and I don't get to control where my lessons are to be found. Oh, and there are some truly good people in the world. (...and some good deals on fishing boats...)