God's Gracious Gifts
Yehudis Bart, Division 2, 11th grade #ws17e-s3d2

I slouch in my seat, listening to the monotonous drone of my Judaic Studies’ teacher. She continues lecturing about gratitude and appreciation, as she has been doing already for an insufferably long amount of time. I stifle a yawn, praying for the torturous class to end. But then, unexpectedly, she catches my attention. I hear a mention of Heaven and God and the indisputable beauty of nature. I sit up, ramrock straight, and listen closely now. I’m interested in seeing how my teacher can put a new spin on bare winter trees and overgrown grass. Her hands wave emphatically to emphasize the significance of her preaching words. She imparts upon on us the dire importance of appreciating the world in which we live. Her main point relies heavily on this esoteric idea--if we met God in Heaven, and He asked us what we thought of His world around us, we’d be incapable of answering Him. We’d stumble on our words, mumbling about the cloudless blue skies that we never fully took the time to appreciate. We’d stutter as we tried to explain how glorious it was to behold the vibrant colors of the forsythias and chrysanthemums and daisies, but all we would remember is trying to avoid the buzzing bees. We’d murmur about the rolling hills of gorgeous greens while trying to recall if we ever cared enough to truly notice them. We’d mumble about the perfect, delicate balance of nature and insects, while in truth, we never studied or showed any interest in learning about it.

I leave the room when the bell rings, feeling inspired, somewhat uplifted, even. I peer out of the window, seeing the bare winter trees. Up until now, I would’ve immediately dismissed the thought of any beauty in them. But now, with my newfound appreciation, I can see a spark of hidden charm, a kind of quiet, gentle grace, lurking beneath the brown branches. There is something serene about the silent bareness of the picturesque scene. I am struck by a sense of awe at the quiet beauty that the tree so carefully, discretely, exudes. I amble outside, disregarding my next class, clad in a heavy winter coat. The wind is strong, nipping at my cheeks and whipping my hair into a frenzy. My curls fight to be released from their tight constraints. They win the fierce battle, springing free from my ponytail. But this doesn’t annoy me, as it would have barely ten minutes ago. That wind is something impressive now--a special soul. And although it’s harsh, biting, freezing, cruel, it is also remarkable in a deep, meaningful way. I look up at the sky, the ominous clouds looming overhead, forbidding, untouchable. Light snowflakes start drifting down, lazily floating in the frigid air. They flutter like butterflies, almost too beautiful to behold. I reach out with a tentative hand and let one float onto my bare skin. It lies there, so white, so delicate, so precious. The cold seeps into my skin, but that doesn’t seem to bother me right now. Cold seems like such a senseless thing about which to be worried. The vision of white in front of me matters so much more than the inane temperature. I gaze around me at the white wonderland where I’m standing. It seems like a dream, as the flakes keep falling down, harder now, covering my chestnut hair, my brown coat, my fur boots. I feel as though I am standing in the midst of something wondrous, something magical--one of the laughable fairy tales at which I always scoffed.

My reverie continues as I take notice of the white expanse of ground on which I am standing. It is clear and untouched and glorious. It is white and pretty and fragile. It is cold and bare and pure. It is a gift. From God. It is His way of bringing beauty in the world. And were it green grass or vibrant flowers blooming or multi-colored leaves, it would not be any less beautiful to me. And I understand my teacher’s words. I see God’s gifts for what they are. I finally can value their beauty to the extent they should be appreciated. And as I stand there, as I watch those flakes drift down, twirling in midair, never ceasing their descent, I just close my eyes. I don’t worry about school. I don’t agonize over work or tests. I’m not concerned about missing class. I just stand there, appreciating the nature surrounding me. I just stand there, thanking God for His gifts.
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