I was lucky enough to be on a Florida beach earlier this year, and one evening, I managed to catch the sunset from the shoreline. It was beautiful—I watched the clouds take on pastel purples and creamy oranges. It was peaceful—the lapping waves and some quiet conversation were the only sounds. And at the moment the sun dipped below the watery horizon, it became inspiring, as the handful of people gathered on the beach broke into spontaneous applause.
It was such a simple gesture, clapping our hands together like that. But tears sprang to my eyes at the surge of happy gratitude I felt connecting the group, family members and strangers alike, all facing westward and celebrating the colorful end of another day of our lives.
The writer Sharon Rene calls the sunset “nature’s farewell kiss for the night.” There is sadness in farewells, of course, but part of the joy of experiencing a sunset is the faith we share in the idea that our parting is temporary. All we need to do is turn around to see sunrise approaching, just hours away.
I reflected that in applauding the sunset, we were praising an occurrence that had nothing whatsoever to do with any human being. The Earth turned. The sun stayed still. Nothing about the form of the day was in our control. Nor was it different from any other, scientifically speaking.
But of course, that day was utterly unique, as was every day before it and every day afterwards. Each day might last the same number of hours, but each day is filled by each of us in different ways. Some of that daily content is up to us—what we ate, what work we completed, what fun we had, how we made a difference to someone else—and some is not. But no day is like any other, and neither is any single sunset.
At the end of each day since that warm Florida sunset, I’ve tried to conjure some version of that feeling of applauding the sunset. After all, the sun sets every day, without fail. So why can’t I be as steadfast in my commitment to looking back over the past 24 hours with gratitude, celebration and positivity?
I can. And so can you.