I snapped the picture above while driving the boys to Ohio last Friday to spend the week with Papa Hoss and Gigi. Like many pictures I take, I thought it would be a cool scene to capture and share with friends and family on social media. I'm not ashamed of that. I love it when friends share snapshots of their lives. It's a great way to stay connected with people you haven't seen for a thousand years and probably won't see for a thousand more. It's also a great reminder that you're not the only one in the world who has some pretty cool things going on.
The real risk with sharing snapshots, though, is mistakenly thinking your picture is nothing more than a mirror image of a random second in your day. Thinking that way doesn't deprive the rest of the world of much; they are perfectly content consuming our lives in small doses. We the snapshooters, however, that's another story. We risk missing out on the hidden gems in those moments.
When I shared this picture on Facebook, my friend Chris noticed the stuffed animals. He knew my family had recently visited Yellowstone. Having been to Yellowstone himself, he knew many of the hotels there leave stuffed animals on your bed hoping you - or more likely your kids - will fall in love with them and pressure you to purchase them on the way out. Chris wondered out loud when commenting on my post if we'd been taken in by that marketing scheme like he had. (He's a gentle soul and it didn't surprise me at all to learn of his love affair with stuffed animals). The answer was we nearly were victims of that scheme. Thank God my wife, Katie, can smell a sales ploy a mile away. She quickly convinced the boys Amazon.com stuffed animals are far more lovable (and to me cheaper often does equal more lovable) than these Yellowstone creatures shamelessly throwing themselves at us in various hotel rooms throughout the park.
Until Chris mentioned the stuffed animals, I hadn't noticed how tightly the boys were snuggled against their furry friends. It brought back instant memories of our last two summers out west, and how badly each of the boys longed to see the real life versions of the animals they were now clinging to. I looked at the picture and wondered if they might have been dreaming of the moments when they each, after persistent and often frustration-filled hunting, finally spotted and celebrated the sightings of a river otter and a male bighorn sheep.
Upon closer inspection of the photo, I also noticed the pillows Elliott and Ian's heads rested on. They were gifts from friends - coincidentally friends from Ohio - who I met online and have come to love very much offline. The Outlaw family has taken such an interest in our family, especially our boys, and these pillows from a couple of Christmases ago have become a staple of every road trip we take. They fit magically into the peaceful image captured in this single second of our boys' lives.
There's also the larger pillow Ian has, wrapped in the wild west pillow case Aunt Mollie made for each of the boys two summers ago when we visited her in Montana. I am reminded of how several years ago "Aunty Mo" bravely packed up and traded her Ohio life in for a brand new adventure out west, and how it's afforded our guys, even at their young ages, the chance to already have a bit of cowboy in them. And in Ian's case, maybe a little more than just a bit.
And oh yes. I also see the McDonald's chocolate milk in the cupholder between them. I'm not sure we've ever had a road trip of any length - in fact, I'm not sure we've ever had a single day of any length - that didn't include McDonald's chocolate milk.
Last of all, I see two boys who could probably much more comfortably be leaning their heads against their own back seat doors, but are instead opting to butt heads together on a cupholder in the middle, trading away comfort for togetherness.
In the end, it's a very cool snapshot. But gratitude makes it much more than that. Every second of our lives are indeed just moments in a grander journey. If we'll just stop and give them a second glance, though, those moments are often filled with much more grand of their own than we originally thought when we snapped the picture. Today, take your own snapshots. Share them. But more importantly, give them a second look. And truly uncover the bigger story in the snap.