Seeing Beauty is a Choice

Michelle Avola
Ex Director of NPC

There is so much that passes before our eyes every day – people walking on a sidewalk, trees swaying in the breeze, kids playing at a park, cars zipping down the road, commercials onTV, posts about every topic imaginable on the numerous apps we have on our phones, photos that pop up when we turn on our computers, scroll through Instagram, Facebook and other social media – but what do we actually SEE?

There is a lot of negativity that bombards us: bickering over differences in opinion on Facebook and Twitter, divisive subject matter now being included in some of our favorite TV shows, news programs filled with reports of pedestrians being struck by cars, homes burned down, shootings across the country and close to home. I have personally been faced with a lot of challenges in the past year, so many hard things on top of more hard things that I’ve felt like pieces of me were breaking.

With no control over many of the things happening to me and in the world around me, I can choose to focus on those things or focus on the beauty around me.

The second option is the one that has led me to peace and hope. When I’m slowed down in traffic, sure I get frustrated, but as a positive diversion I’ve started scouting for clever vanity plates, funny bumper stickers, and convertibles I’d like to be driving.

When I’m grocery shopping at stores that are steadily growing more crowded, I am trying to tune in to languages and accents I don’t hear all the time. As I’m running errands and see frazzled moms, I’m making an effort to smile and give a genuine and specific compliment about the mom or one of her children and my heart is warmed when I see her face light up.

When I’m riding my bike, I smile and say hello to people I see out walking. I wave and yell “thank you” when a car actually moves over the required three feet when they pass me. I am more aware of the carpet-like green grass, the many beautiful colors of the flowers I see, and the majesty of the tall palm and mahogany trees over my head.

As the holiday decorations along our streets, in stores and restaurants seem to go up earlier and earlier, sometimes by December, they seem to have lost a little something. I absolutely love Christmas, so I don’t want the duration of the decorations to dim their beauty for me, so I’ve started looking for a particular holiday symbol on different days.

One day I count all the bells I can find, another day I look for pretty displays that include holly, another I may look for all the silver stars.

What can you do to focus on the beauty around you as life gets busier this month? Perhaps you can gather some friends and enjoy the scenery on a walk along the Gordon River Greenway; take your lunch to a park and pay attention to the sounds of laughing children, the silly antics of squirrels, the way the leaves move in the breeze; turn off the TV, put down your phone and mindfully engage in conversation with your spouse; dust off your bike and take it for a spin around your community to clear your mind of the concerns weighing you down.

The best suggestion I can think of is look for things that make you happy and truly appreciate every single one of them! I hope you see all the beauty there is around you, because there is so much.

Michelle Avola is the Executive Director of Naples Pathways Coalition (NPC), a non-profit organization that works to create safe,bikeable, walkable communities in Collier County.

For more information or to join, visit the NPC web site at or contact Michelle directly at

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