It won't surprise you to know I watched both nights of the "debates," which should more properly be called "confrontation contests" or "pointless-way-to-spend-two-hours competitions." I had enjoyed the first two, hosted by NBC, but I found these boring and irritating. It's not that I don't like the candidates, I do. But there are so many.
And I knew what would happen. Bernie would turn red and wave his arms, Warren would have a plan, Biden would equivocate, Harris would be combative, and Buttigiege would speak in well-formed sentences and perfect paragraphs. And the rest of them would fight for air time.
I didn't foresee CNN moderators continually pitting one candidate against another instead of eliciting information, though I suppose I should have.
So why did I watch? Because I keep hoping for something better. Because this feels like the most important election in my lifetime. Because I need to know that help is on the way.
To clear my mind this morning I listened to a podcast interview with Ross Gay, a writer and professor of English at Indiana University. His book of poetry, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, and his book of essays, The Book of Delights, are expressions of his belief that joy is available to us at all times in all places. "How can we not be joyful," he says, "especially in a moment like this?"
Like Mr, Gay I believe that joy is not limited to major events. It can be found in all kinds of ways, most often in the little things life offers up each day. The smiling checkout clerk who offers to carry your bags, a butterfly landing on your arm, the laugh of a baby in a stroller.
Many years ago, my college roommate suggested a nightly "rule" that Gay's interview brought to mind. No matter how late it was or how tired we might be, the light could not be turned off until we each identified a "pleasant surprise" the day had brought. There were, of course, days when that was easy, like getting a passing grade on an unexpected test. Other days the task seemed impossible. We were young; college life was confusing, challenges were daily events. "Nothing good happened!" But yet, as we carefully reviewed our day, we always, always found a pleasant surprise.
If help is on the way, this is how it will arrive. It's going to be a long year of political ups and downs; elation and discouragement. But by focusing attention on the thousands of small events and pleasant surprises that make me happy every day—even joyful—I will get through it. So may we all.