Living Simply | December 1, 2015

Seeing beauty in the ordinary

I recently found myself sitting at a piano in a recording studio in the middle of the woods, playing an original tune about finding beauty in solitude. The song will be part of a compilation project called “Beauty in the Common,” a collection of music, musings, and photographs that showcase beauty often missed in the ordinary. It’s about noticing simple beauty, like the way cream billows through coffee, how sun shines through vibrant autumn leaves, or the tiny flecks of color in your grandmother’s eyes. Deep beauty can be found in things as simple as food, melody, and hugs, in the strength of community, healing in pain, and miracles in chaos, if we only stop to notice it.

As we enter Advent, this exercise of realizing beauty in common places is more than appreciating dancing flames in the fireplace or the taste of a delicious meal. It’s about the soul-stirring beauty in creating simple spaces of welcome for the stranger, offering hospitality to the other, and inviting all to join us at the table. In a time when there seems to be “no room at the inn” for the thousands of refugees fleeing violence and war, it’s about offering the beauty of a safe place to rest.

Of all the common places in Jerusalem, a stable must have been the most common, yet it became the scene of beauty untold on Christmas. Even as Mary and Joseph were strangers themselves, they opened their door to shepherds—surely the most common of people. The sky, a common backdrop to our days and nights, bore an uncommon beauty in the star that guided another trio of strangers to the Christ child. These subtle moments of beauty gone unnoticed by so many, are the kind that we are invited to engage this season and always.

Advent is a time of preparing for Jesus and celebrating his birth. It’s a time to look for beauty in common places and common people, and in the simple act of welcoming strangers to eat and drink and get warm by the fire. As we prepare to welcome a Savior born among cows and donkeys, let’s also welcome the least of these in his name. Let’s pay attention to the ordinary, the communal, and the common, and be prepared to be moved by their beauty.

Give the gift of welcome by donating at, or by hosting a refugee by calling Church World Service at 212-870-3300. Find more beauty at

Amanda J. Garcia is a freelance writer living in Elgin, Ill. Visit her online at