The caffeine sweetness of steam rises, whirling and swirling up from the cup of coffee held tightly in my hand. Its gentle, soothing aromas providing solace and warmth. Instead of taking a slow sip, I grab a quick gulp and then dive into the blur of the school day.
The morning begins like most in Denver. The quiet glow, peaking over the hills as if to gently nudge the world into action. A slight radiance grows—sparking pinks, oranges, and sometimes vibrant reds—traveling from the eastern hills and stretching out to the sleepy mountains in the west. The crystalline view of the summits are so clear I can count the mountain peaks powdered white with snow. The entire scene soaks in the hues and tones from the sunshine, clothing itself in majesty. It’s breathtaking and demands a sense of awe and wonder.
As I walk to school with the sun’s jubilant tinges of color and the clear view to the mountains, I reach for my phone. Anxiously reading last-minute emails, I encounter a student asking for an extension, a parent questioning a student’s grade, an athlete claiming he is too busy to be at track practice today, and a meeting agenda which will undoubtedly take all of lunch.
I shake my head slightly because it’s not yet 7 a.m., and I’m frustrated already. My eyes remain transfixed on the screen carefully checking for spelling, professionalism, and tone before pushing the “send” button.
“Mr. Biro, you’ve got to be kidding me?! Seriously, that cannot be the ending… I mean is there like, I don’t know, a sequel or something?” She stands in the doorway of the English office with a stack of books balanced between her arm and her hip which she has popped to the side.
“Wait. Did you finish the book?”
“So that’s it?” She says again.
“You didn’t like it?” I reply.
“No. It’s not that. I mean I finished it—this is like the first book I’ve actually finished in your class. Maybe the first book I’ve read all of since freshman year.” Her face scrunches around her nose, thinking or remembering or maybe just coming to terms with the fact that I’m not giving her the answer she wanted. “Ok. Yeah,” she says as much to herself as to me, “We’ll have to talk about this later…”
She pivots on her heel, heading out of the still-open doorway. I return to writing a quiz for a different class. I double check the multiple-choice answers, proofread the questions for ambiguity, and recalculate the math to ensure that it works out. I press print and then sprint to the printer in order to make enough copies for the class beginning in seven minutes across campus.
Track practice closes with students running several 200 meter sprints at full speed. Their faces are red. Most of the team looks like they’re held together with duct tape and prayers—I’ve seen at least a few mumble some questionable language under their breaths after the last few meters. All, except for one student.
“Coach! Did you see that? That felt great. I felt fast, really fast!” His face is just as red as the others. Despite his off-kilter rhythm of gasping for breath, he’s smiling ear to ear.
We talk briefly about form, his knees, and extension. He nods, still smiling, and asks, “Coach, that was my last one, but can I do another?”
The sun has set long ago, and I’m sitting in my chair praying about the day—a very, very long day. I feel desperate and exhausted, as if morning to evening was run at a sprint. My back is sore from standing through non-stop classes. My voice is raw from teaching and coaching. And as I sit in the chair, I can feel tomorrow’s checklist already piling on top of me.
I take a look at the star-ridden sky outside my window, and I ask God: Did I see anything beautiful today? Show me what I missed…
It wasn’t a special day—it was actually quite ordinary and routine—but beauty was there. A flood of moments overcome me: a fresh cup of coffee, a striking mountain majesty, the joy of a student, and the success of a runner… And, these moments are accompanied by a tinge of guilt.
The day came. It went. It was gone before I could savor it. In the midst of the nonstop busyness, these little flashes of intensity, of joy, and of love were all muted by the efficiency of my checklist. I could have felt awe, joy, and beauty, but I let my productivity, the screens of my phone and laptop, and even my constant mad-dash between agenda items devour any space to pause, or reflect, or even feel. Sitting with God now, I feel ungrateful and unashamed for having wasted so many moments.
But as I pray in the quiet evening, I’m struck by the invitation: Would I really have been less productive if I had simply stopped for a moment? What would have happened if I had been daring enough to pause for beauty?
Truth be told, I don’t know for certain what would have happened if I had paused more, but I do know that I’d likely be more grateful about how the day had gone.
I’d probably be less stressed about the mounting list of “to-dos” being added to my tomorrow.
Perhaps, I would have been more free to add “pause with beauty” to my checklist.
Maybe, just maybe, I’d even be prepared to seek the beauty within the busyness of tomorrow.