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by Dave Markwell

Every year my Rotary Club donates dictionaries to all of the third graders in our city. Distributing the books to the students is always a neat event. It is fun seeing all of the young faces exploring their new gift and it feels good to give this gift. This year was even cooler for me because my daughter is a third grader.

A couple of days ago, I went to the school and handed out dictionaries to her and her classmates, many of whom I have known since kindergarten. It was great seeing their enthusiasm and it was fun seeing my daughter in her school environment. I pick her up from school every afternoon, but I don’t often witness her in a classroom. She was happy to see me, but also a little bit anxious as I had, the previous evening, detailed all the ways I was going to embarrass her during this event. Waiting for her dictionary, she wore a nervous smile and begged me with her eyes to not do anything stupid. She needn’t have worried. I behaved myself and was proud to be there. I did come to understand as I stood watching her interact and actually pay attention that she is a pretty good kid. It is easy to forget this. At school, she listens and minds her manners. Things are different when she is home with me. Besides her good behavior, this experience illustrated to me that she is growing up faster than I can comprehend and is changing in ways that astound me when I catch glimpses of them.

Prior to the dictionary distribution, I went to the school office and signed my girl out of class for the rest of the afternoon as a little surprise for her. After the books were handed out, I told my daughter that we were leaving early to meet my wife and to get some hot chocolate at Auntie Irene’s, a local coffee shop. She was pleased with this news.

During the brief drive from Des Moines Elementary to the coffee shop, the radio was tuned to a country station and a song mentioning “paradise” was playing. The song referenced islands and sand and sun and it felt pretty good to hear about these things on a rather dreary northwest afternoon

At the coffee shop, I sat in a comfy chair while my wife and daughter playfully visited. Glancing out the window at the waters of my life, Puget Sound, the song about “paradise” kept replaying in my mind. The idea of paradise is a little slippery and nebulous to me. It’s a “you know it when you see it” kind of thing. That afternoon, sitting with my girls, sipping a good cup of coffee, looking out a rain splattered window at my world, I felt paradise. And it was nice.

I felt paradise, too, when my daughter was collecting her things to leave the classroom as her envious classmates returned to their school work and my girl looked at me with a conspiratorial shrug and a grin of pleasure. She knew that she was special. It’s important to feel special sometimes and the fact that I made her feel special made me feel special. Paradise was found…again.

These moments of paradise are a soft-soled dance with perfection and feel good every time. What struck me and stayed with me following this insight was that moments like this happen often. Every single day we experience moments in paradise. The key to achieving them is seeing them. They are there. We just have to look.

Each day is filled with brief sparks of true moments that slow us down and baffle the noisy world we spend much of life living in. These moments are paradise. A certain peace lives in this stillness that reminds and recharges and sometimes reinvents us in ways that make us better. Paradise lives here and surrounds us always. It is in the mind and heart. It has infinite shapes and colors. And the hue is especially shiny on a dark and damp afternoon playing hooky with a happy eight year old daughter.

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his new exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]

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