why beauty makes the world worth it

Yesterday I flew from JFK to Paris, where I have a 2-day layover so I can adjust to the time change and hit the ground running once I get to South Sudan.



Because I fly so much, I have status on Delta, which means I get free access to the lounges they have in airport terminals.  


Before I flew out of New York yesterday, I went to the lounge to get a bite to eat before boarding my flight.  There was an amazing spread of artisanal pastries, French cheeses, salad toppings that included artichokes and anchovies and salmon, and champagne.


The beautiful buffet simultaneously stimulated and diminished my appetite.


I love French food, and I was really hungry - and grateful for the opportunity to have a free meal before boarding a long international flight.  


But at the same time, I remembered the purpose of the trip, the reason I was at the airport in the first place: to travel to a war-zone to deliver desperately-needed medical training and supplies.


Is it fair for me to indulge when many people I’ll be meeting shortly don’t have access to a spread like this? I wondered.  


I sat down with a small salad and a dinner roll and, while I nibbled on the lettuce -- and the question -- I called my parents to say good-bye.


Today, I landed in Paris.  I checked in to the small hotel where I’ve stayed every year for the past seven years.  It’s a quaint hotel with a rickety wooden staircase, sparse rooms and stone walls.  There aren’t any phones or TV’s in the rooms, and you have to go to the small lobby (with its antique crimson velvet couch, two wooden chairs and a fern that sprawls across the mahogany coffee table) to access the internet.


The hotel is simple. But in spite of its austerity, it’s exquisite.  When I open the window in my room, I can see Notre Dame.  Every time I stay here, I wake up each morning to the sound of ringing bells.


I dropped my bags in my hotel room, and opened the window to hear the morning bells of Notre Dame, and see a city basking in holiday light.  And I smiled.  Because Paris makes me happy.  


I spent the rest of the day walking the familiar streets.  As I walked, I pondered the same question I had last night as I surveyed the buffet.  


How can I enjoy this beautiful world we live in when so many people are suffering?


Because beauty makes it worth it.


The words came to me as a whisper as I stood at the base of Notre Dame at dusk, watching the bright moon rise above its spires.


The beauty of a person uniquely created in the image of God is worth every effort it takes to save that life.


The beauty of a child’s giggle and sparkling eyes and contagious joy makes it worth sacrificing whatever it takes to help that little one survive.


The beauty of peace makes it worth the process of forgiveness and reconciliation.


The beauty of restoration redeems the painstaking hours experts spend erasing damage done to paintings and first edition books and cathedrals built by hand.


The pleasure of satiety makes it worth the effort to make sure no one goes hungry.


The life-affirming joy of community inspires us to reach out to people who are lonely.  


The stunning beauties of soaring cathedrals and genius brush strokes and perfectly-plated food and dancing children and soul-stirring music aren't just indulgences we get to enjoy after the world’s problems are solved.  


The world’s beauty is here for us to enjoy in the midst of the suffering to remind us of how awe-inspiring our planet is.  To remind us the exquisite good human beings are capable of.  To remind us we were created to thrive, not just survive.  To remind us that precious diamonds emerge from coal and pearls evolve from sand.


Even as I write this, I’m sitting by the window at a small cafe, watching twinkling lights on the evergreen tree in the square across the street.  


As I remember the joy of today, 24 hours before leaving for the next leg of the journey to South Sudan, it occurs to me that soaking up the beautiful in our world isn’t optional; it’s essential.  


Because beauty gives us the vision, the energy and the reminder we need to keep pouring our lives into the brokenness…


….until all is healed. And all is whole. And all is well.