I see in the newspaper that the Eiffel Tower’s flashing lights turn off earlier each night to save energy, which Paris visitors might find a little sad. The French landmark is a huge draw for tourists eager to enjoy the City of Lights, and I also thought it was a must-stop when I first visited Paris in 1991.
Still, the most vivid memory of my trip back then wasn’t a part of Paris that would likely end up in a guidebook. One evening a friend I was traveling with suggested that we go for a walk with no particular destination in mind and show Paris on its own terms. Days of following an itinerary had exhausted us, and we were ready to follow no plan at all.
So we came across singing at an old neighborhood church on a quiet block. Inside, a choir was practicing, the harmony of which leaked out onto the street through an open side door. Enchanted we walked in and stayed a spell while enjoying choral music beautifully rendered in French. It was nice to hear a language with such special resonance in my home state of Louisiana, the voices of the singers imbued with a palpable sense of faith.
That evening taught me a lesson I’ve tried to remember, though I often forget. It’s the simple truth that while we’re looking for headline-grabbing experiences — traveling to the Eiffel Tower, hiking the Grand Canyon, cruising to a tropical haven — those smaller moments that sneak up on us often involve the greatest bliss.
I’ve been reflecting on all of this as another Thanksgiving approaches, a time to reflect on the great things that will surely inspire gratitude.
Some obvious blessings will come to mind as I join other bowed heads around the holiday table. Our daughter got married this year. Our son made his own successful trip to France over the summer, a capstone of sorts as he prepares to graduate from college next spring. My wife and I both attended high school reunions, another one of those events on our personal calendar that helped underscore our happiness.
But the year also brought smaller, if equally impressive, strokes of luck. My job required me to attend a national convention in Orlando last August, and as I stood in a ballroom during hospitality hour and made new friends, I realized this is exactly the kind of community that lives in the darkest days of far impossible seemed the pandemic, and now it has been restored to us.
Perhaps, at best, Thanksgiving inspires us to remember such blessings in lowercase—little miracles written in the fine print of our ordinary hours we’re usually too busy to see.
At least that’s my hope, because autumn says goodbye to a tired year.
Email Danny Heitman at [email protected]