My first year of teaching, a student gave me a Christmas gift–a Mason jar filled with homemade hot cocoa mix. If you exist in near proximity to me for any length of time, you will deduce–as this astute 11th grader did–that I love chocolate, probably more than I should. So I was understandably excited about receiving an entire quart of it. But that’s not the most memorable part of the experience.
Tied to the top of the jar with ribbon, cut from red construction paper with green-marker writing, was a tag: Ms. Fitz, Thanks for being the best teacher ever!
I kept the tag, out where I could see it. My first year of teaching was insanely stressful, and there were times when I doubted my ability (or willingness) to continue in this career. Looking at that tag on my dining room table every time I walked through the room was a reminder that there is always light in the darkness. I mattered to a kid, and because of that she did something beautiful that I will never forget.
Those moments happen more often than I give them credit for. In fact, as we walk uncertainly into a much-anticipated but far-from-stable 2017, I’m willing to venture a leap of faith that they happen every day. In each 24 hour period, there must be at least one event, one interaction, one realization, one moment, that makes the day worth it for each and every one of us. I have plenty of stress and frustration and confusion right now, but amidst that dark sea, I think I can find at least one single drop of sunlight. The thing I wouldn’t trade for the world. These are the moments worth living for.
Therefore, this Mason jar from my student is now officially my Moments Worth Living For jar. No, this is not a unique concept–memory jars have been circulating social media for years, and there are all kinds of cute tutorials on Pinterest on how to make yours chic and crafty. Mine is simple–glass and paper. A student’s gift and my words.
As an author, I find this habit of writing down events an especially significant act. After three days of recording moments, I have happened across a few epiphanies:
- There is more than one thing per day. I have had to bullet point my moments on the daily slip because I couldn’t pick just one. Since the past month has been a particularly trying time in my life, this seems like a good sign. There IS light, if I look hard enough.
- The people in my life are amazing. I already knew this, but now I know it more deeply. So far, my moments have included everything from surprise gifts from friends (posts on that later) to calls from my Grandmother just to see how I’m doing. I don’t deserve these people and their love, but I wouldn’t trade them for ANYTHING.
- I worry too much about organization. Some part of me actually balked at the idea of just tossing moments into the jar, because they will get all mixed up and will no longer be chronological with discernible data patterns and…then I said to heck with it. This isn’t about order. It’s about finding light. Into the jar they go.
- I have no idea what I’m going to do with the jar when I’m done. Some tutorials suggest filling the jar for 365 days, then dumping it out on December 31st to review the best moments of the year. I may do that. Or I may pull out a slip when I’m feeling useless and stuck to remember that something worthwhile WILL happen today–I just have to keep looking for it. Or I may fill the jar and simply keep it on a shelf as a visual symbol of how moments can accumulate like snowflakes–unique, crisp, fleeting, and beautiful.
- Having the jar has made me watch for recordable moments. I’ve found myself asking, could this be my moment for today? Is this span of time something I treasure, these breaths, this conversation, this tiny piece of life? Is it worth remembering? Looking for moments to “keep” has made me more aware of how much of my existence may fall into that category. I didn’t anticipate this result, but I am certainly grateful for it.
If you are going through a dark time, or a bright time, or just want to do something with that Mason jar you got from your cousin’s wedding–give this a go. Find a receptacle–your daughter’s old fish bowl, that vase from aunt Florence, the awkwardly-mitered wooden tray your student made you in shop class–and start recording moments. It won’t fix anything in your life, but it might just make each rotation of the Earth seem more worthwhile.
“All eternity is in the moment.” -Mary Oliver, American poet