“Mama, look at this one!” my daughter waved an autumn leaf excitedly. “And this one!” as she bent down to pick up another. Watching her run here and there, one would think there was endless treasure scattered everywhere about her. To her, there was.
This was her first real autumn experience. Last year, she had barely known how to crawl and the year before that, she was still floating obliviously in her amniotic sac. I did not have the heart to tell her that some people would say certain leaves are prettier than others. That some leaves deserved to be picked up more than others. She had her whole lifetime ahead of her to hear those messages. Instead, I tried to see what she saw.
She challenged me. Her indiscriminate acceptance and delight over each and every leaf made me question my own framework of how I thought about beauty and what I defined as worthwhile. I grew up in southern Ontario where the autumn leaves are some of the most spectacular and brilliant. I remember that even as a child, I would try to find the perfect leaf to take home and preserve in the pages of our telephone book. I would pick the most vibrant, symmetrical and unblemished one of them all. Being an artist, I unconsciously prided myself in being able to separate the exceptional from the pedestrian.
And yet, here she was, handing me this crusty yellow, mostly brown, pock-marked leaf as if it were the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
It made me wonder if her vision might be closer to how God sees us – of how God sees me. So often, I am critical of myself. I think I am not as pretty or as talented as this friend. I wish I had more social energy like that person. I lament the state of my post-baby body. Like that withering, spotted leaf, I am tempted to pass myself over as unremarkable and not worth giving attention to.
But through the eyes of my daughter, I know that God sees us differently. Just like my little girl who wants to bring the entire forest floor home with us, God looks on us with joy and welcomes us. The specks, the rotting parts, the frayed and missing bits, God accepts all that. No one is less important and no one is to be discarded.
Because this is what Love sees: we are all his treasure.
Photo and design: Olive Chan