'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be freeNot an Advent hymn, as its origins are as a Shaker song, but a profound meditation on the nature of delight itself. True delight is found by seeking simplicity and finding ourselves in "the place just right." Delight cannot be demanded, only discovered. The minute we start trying to manufacture delight, when we start planning and imagining and pushing and prodding it to bend to our will, is the death-knell for delight—a point that I would be well served to keep in mind every holiday. The more effort made to force her presence, the more likely delight is to duck out the side door and leave the misery of failed expectations in her place.
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.
Take going to the beach on a sunny summer day. Preparation is the key, right? But by the time I pack sandwiches, dig out pails and shovels and special sandcastle making toys, haul out umbrellas and chairs and laying upon towels and drying off towels, pack coolers with assorted drinks and snacks and fruit selection, and then haul it all down to the waterfront along with everyone's expectations... Well, by that time, I'm pretty much done for. And any chance of anybody having any delight at that point is pretty slim.
One of our best beach days ever happened on the spur of the moment this past summer, when I threw towels, a bottle of sunscreen and the kids in the car, stopping just long enough for sandwiches and drinks. Delight abounded, even without the special sandcastle making toys and extensive snack selection. Probably because of the lack, as a matter of fact. Upon reflection, some of my most treasured delight-full memories are ones that happened with the least planning and forethought. They just... happened. The joy of unexpected pleasures walks hand in hand with delight, and love is usually right there too.
So for this holiday season especially, hopefully to become more of a routine, I'm opening up to the delight that already exists all around me. All I have to do is what the song says.
Be simple: don't clutter up the moment with nitpicky plans and elaborate expectations.
Be free: let things happen as they will, without forcing them to abide by a preset script.
Come down where we ought to be—and pay attention enough to notice.
And above all, to remember: the grace of delight's presence helps us to come round 'right.