Today is my 50th birthday. Karen and I just returned from Monmouth, Illinois where I did some programming with our new American Stories exhibit and packed it up to install at the next venue.
After my gallery talk in Monmouth, a man walked up with a small, brown paper bag in his hand. He said, “You’ve given us a gift…and I’d like to give you one in return,” and handed it to me.
I’m never sure if you’re supposed to open it right then and there…but he asked me to.
He said, “I have two hobbies…photography and rock collecting.” I pulled a small geode out of the bag. It had been broken open.
He took the rock from my hand and showed me the outside. “Most people only ever see the rough and unremarkable outside of these stones. They pass them by, without giving them a second thought.”
Then he turned the geode over to reveal the bright crystals hidden inside. “But some will take the time to see the beauty that’s on the inside…and that’s what you do…with people.”
It was perhaps the simplest and sweetest thing anyone has ever said about my work. It helped me see my own efforts in a new light, and it’s a good reminder of how to move forward as I enter the second half of my first century.
Help me celebrate by recognizing the beauty in those around you. Look past the rough exterior to find the gems within. And make sure you don’t bury your own beauty too deeply…let it shine.