One of the blogs I follow is titled "Beauty in the Ordinary." Since completing the Denver Writing Project I've been challenging myself to look at the world through this lens. I've been trying to see the world through a "writer's eyes," to see something special, unique or distinct in the mundane. Some days where I look for beauty I just see the ordinary -- people shuffling around disconnected, plugged in and tuned out. But today I saw something truly beautiful. Something I would call extraordinary. Something that made me smile. Something that as hundreds of students fill backpacks, pack lunches, and board buses this week in preparation for a new school year, gives me hope.
While ordering an iced coffee at the Barnes and Noble cafe, somewhere between swiping my bank card and pushing a straw through the top of my drink, my gaze fell upon an unlikely text-immersed trio: a father sat with his two sons, tucked away at a corner table, settled in and content, completely engaged with the written word. The father was taking turns between scanning the content of his magazine and marveling at his two sons who looked to be between the ages of eight and twelve. The younger of the two, brow furrowed, concentrated on his e-reader, oblivious to everything around him. The older one sat, stooped shoulders and eyes lit up behind the cover of the latest Alex Rider installment, silently mouthing the words and moving his finger line by line down the page, radiating sheer pleasure at getting one sentence deeper into his paperback adventure world. As the barista completed my order, the father made eye contact. He must have read my face, a mixture between surprise, awe and delight, because he smiled widely, matching my grin, and looked from me, back to his sons, then to me again, his eyes silently affirming, "Yes, on this Sunday afternoon my sons choose to read."
As I walked away from the scene and into the shelves of beckoning titles, I couldn't decide if the human tableau should leave me feeling satisfied or sad. Seeing a father choose to read alongside his sons on a Sunday afternoon left me hopeful about the future of the printed word and the power that teachers and parents have to support and safeguard the next generation of readers. But the fact that this scene caught me by surprise made me sad. Why can't I remember the last time I saw engaged readers in action (especially outside the walls of a classroom)? And why did this scene feel extraordinary when really, shouldn't parents and children reading side-by-side be among the most simple, routine and ordinary events we encounter?