I love Swiss chocolate, but Dove will do. Its metallic blue foil wrappers have messages on the inside that I read with the same eager curiosity that I read fortunes tucked into fortune cookies. It is not that I believe that a thin piece of paper tucked into a cookie or a message on a foil chocolate wrapper can tell or determine my fortune. No, not that… but this: a few words can be a lens to the moment. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it keeps you looking.
When I teach writing to third graders, I teach them to look for the small moments in the events that matter to them. “Slowing down moment” is a technique Lucy Calkins writes about in The Art of Teaching Writing. Teaching children to do this is a process and it isn’t easy. Young writers often move from soccer to state fair in the course of a couple of sentences. “Slow it down,” I say, “Find the small moment… Write the small moment.” It takes them a long time to get it. And today I am reminded why. Sometimes life is really big.
Last Wednesday we flew all night and landed in Switzerland early Thursday morning. We were tired, but so excited to meet our new baby granddaughter. We boarded the train for Bern at the airport in Zurich. This was the last leg of the trip and the train couldn’t get there fast enough. We passed towns and houses and gardens and pastures of brown and white cows with big copper colored bells around their necks. Cows are well respected in Switzerland for their key contribution to milk, cheese, and chocolate. I remembered I still had a Dove chocolate in my pocket. I unwrapped the blue foil wrapper and read the message inside. I couldn’t think of better words to name the moment: “Love comes in small packages.” These words, a tiny lens to the majestic ordinary, have stayed with me all week. There are not words to describe how beautiful and special it is to hold, rock, walk, and sing to Georgia… but I can write about the chocolate wrapper.
The small moment is one of the many moments in a big event that surprise or delight us; it can be the prolonged ringing of church bells while cooking dinner; it can be trying to negotiate the farmer’s market without being able to speak German; it can be reading a book to a baby granddaughter. Small moments carry the parts of life that mean the most to us.
I stood in the chocolate aisle in a Swiss grocery store and found small chocolates wrapped with postcard scenes of Switzerland. Each chocolate is a perfect tiny package for a third grade writer. Maybe this will lead to another lesson on small moments. After all, love comes in small packages. And so does joy.