The room was dark. No lights were flickering. Nearly a dozen people huddled together in an attic. Below them they could hear authoritative voices, firmly asking questions. No one dared move. To be found out would mean certain death if the Nazis were to find them. Anne Frank and her Jewish family lived secluded lives with sympathetic Gentile friends who risked all to hide them from a barbaric government. For two long years, they followed a very systematic routine so that they would not make noise and be discovered. Eventually, they would be found, and they would die in a concentration camp. However, during their time of hiding, Anne, a young 13 year-old girl, wrote about her hopes, her ambitions, her crush and her dreams for the future. As the days dragged on and the difficulty of perpetual monotony wore her down, she wrote a line in her diary that speaks boldly to us today, as we traverse life with COVID-19. “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
Her statement is shocking. It is radical. When considered in her context, it would seem to be unattainable. Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy. The first word tells us to be cognizant and choose how we direct our mental energy. Often, our minds drift. We bound from one thought to another, but when we are intentional in the direction of our thoughts, we seem to gain control. We have choice where our thoughts go. Instead of thinking of negative, pessimistic thoughts, she challenges us to think of all the beauty. According to Webster, beauty is ”the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”
Where do you find beauty? The spring flowers, the warm sunshine bouncing off the green grass? Do you find beauty in friendships, neighbors who wave and add “good morning”! Perhaps you find beauty in your spouse, your children, or your grandchildren. Wherever you find beauty—think about that beauty with gratitude in your heart.
Then she adds, “still left around you.” Some of us have had many beautiful people or things in our lives that have since been taken away. While we can be thankful for our memories, Anne challenges us to look for the beauty in the Now. Not the beauty of yesterday or tomorrow. Look for the beautiful now…currently in your life. Often, pondering yesterday’s beauty leads to sadness and melancholy, but finding beauty in your current circumstance will take you to a much better place. So, how hard would it be for you to take a mental vacation from the current crisis and start looking for the beauty in your life? A flower. A conversation. A pretty dress. A moving song. A letter from a loved one. Be active in your pursuit. Marvel at your discoveries. Then, enthusiastically share your findings with another.
“And be happy.” Is this another challenge? One,”Think of beauty.” Two, ”Be happy.” I do not think Anne is telling us to do two things. I think she is saying that happiness is the result of appreciating the beauty that we find. As you seek out beauty and verbally appreciate it to others, the natural result is happiness.
Can you think of three things in your life that are beautiful? Can you articulate with sincere appreciation the beauty you find to a trusted friend? When you do, notice how you feel. I’m guessing you may be feeling happy. A welcome change for many of us.