Recently, I was overcome by tears of awe at the kindness of people.
This is not an experience I often have, and it moved me. However, I have been reflecting more on awe recently as I had just finished a great new book by Dacher Keltner, Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How it Can Transform Your Life.
This book is about how awe can enhance and benefit our life. It also discusses how there are different types of awe, and we can experience it in response to what he calls “the eight wonders of life”: the strength, courage and kindness of others; collective movement in actions like dance and sports; nature; music; art and visual design; mystical encounters; encountering life and death; and big ideas or epiphanies. I tend to have awe while seeing physical beauty or experiencing music, and suddenly finding myself crying in awe at the kindness of others surprised me.
Where I found myself in tears was in Missoula, MT in a park, while reading a giant sign. The sign tells the story of a man who wanted to build a carousel for the children of Missoula to enjoy. To do this, he engaged a huge community of volunteers who helped him build the carousel, carve and restore the animals for it by hand, make the stained-glass windows, and build the building in which it would be housed.
So many people were involved in this project. School children collected over one million pennies to adopt four ponies. People from all over built horses and made the windows. People from as far away as Calgary, Canada gave of their time and themselves. When the carousel opened, four years later, over 100,000 hours of volunteer time had gone into this labor of love.
The kindness and efforts of this loving community are awe-inspiring. They worked together to build a magical place where children experience joy daily. I saw the kids lining up to go on the carousel before it even opened, so excited to get to ride on it. I watched the run to their favorite horse or chariot, smiling and screaming with happiness.
The love and community evidenced in this carousel illustrates one of the most important reasons why we are here: to love and support each other. This ideal and message can easily get lost in the hustle and bustle of life and in the dissent and conflict shown on the news. But, as I said in my very first blog post, we are all brothers and sisters in the human family. When we love and help others, we grow and benefit immensely.
Due to this, I ask you to take a moment today to help another, to show or share your love, or to go out of your way to make someone else’s life a little easier. It can be as small as texting a friend to let them know you are thinking of them, helping someone carry their groceries, or sending someone a thank you email. Bring about a bit of awe yourself as someone else experiences your kindness or love, and the world will be a bit brighter.