A special word has caught my attention over the last few weeks. I’ve been hearing the word whoa a great deal recently, and am also noticing how often I say it myself.  I was with a group of people recently, for example, where a woman was describing the work she does as a tutor in an after school youth program.  As she talked about how necessary the work is and how moved she is by doing it, I noticed that several of us responded by saying, “Whoa, that is really powerful!” Recently I attended my young grandson’s birthday party where exclamations of “whoa” were everywhere.  Young children are easily awed by the smallest of things, whether it be a birthday cake, the gift of a new toy, a beautiful bird in a nearby tree, or the delight of being pulled around in a wagon.  And when young children express their awe and delight, they don’t just say it with their voice, they proclaim it with their whole body, their whole face lights up as they shout, “Whoaaaaaaaaa!”

If you look up the definition of the word whoa you will find that the first meaning is “a command to get an animal (commonly a horse) to stop or slow down.”  The second definition you will find  is “a greeting, to express surprise or interest.”  I would like to invite us to combine these two and think of “whoa” as what we feel or say when we take the time to stop or slow down enough to truly experience the moments of delight and awe that are all around us.  Think of small children who stop in their tracks to look at a caterpillar, full of excitement and wonder, an experience that we adults might easily miss.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in all the very real stresses and strains in our lives.  Life an be difficult and we all face many challenges in our relationships, our work, and our everyday lives.  At the same time, though, life is full of spiritual moments that transcend our struggles and these tiny miracles in our midst remind us of what is most important in life.  There are “whoa moments” in our lives each day and while we can’t necessarily create these moments, we can slow down enough to make sure we notice and appreciate them when they occur.

The next time a friend or family member tells you about a small victory in his or her life, be sure to slow down and truly listen so they know they are being heard.  Or the next time someone shares a challenge they have overcome, a new insight they have made, or a story of how they are making a difference in the world, pause long enough to truly honor and celebrate what they have shared.  When you do this, don’t be surprised if your response includes the word whoa.

What are the “whoa moments” in your life right now?  Are you slowing down long enough to notice and celebrate these moments?  If you are having a difficulty noticing these moments, I highly suggest spending some time with some two and three year olds.  I guarantee they will not only help you to better see, but to also give voice to, the “whoa moments” that are all around you.