Each year at Chanukah time the word "miracle" evokes images of burning oil and victorious underdog armies.
But even as we focus on the miracles of the ancient Chanukah tale, there are many present-day miracles that deserve our attention. A front-page story in this week's paper offers a powerful lesson: If we simply open our eyes, we witness miracles every day.
As hackneyed as it may sound, we witness the miracle of being alive and, in some cases, of being gifted with good health. We witness the miracle of having parents, children and friends. And we work to successfully overcome our most frustrating obstacles, which at times can feel like nothing short of a miracle.
Of course, noticing the miracles around us requires taking time from our harried lives to look at our gifts. Though many may not think of Chanukah as a particularly spiritual time, looking at the holiday through the prism of personal miracles indeed casts it in a sacred light.
But as the front-page story relates, Chanukah is a time not only to consider the miracles we witness but the miracles we create.
Give a nickel or dime to a homeless person who has been ignored all day by passersby, and watch that person's eyes light up with appreciation that someone took the time to consider his or her plight.
When you're getting off a bus, say thank you to a cranky bus driver and watch his or her tension ease — if only for a moment. Spend a half hour visiting with an isolated senior and that person is likely to tell you that you made their day.
What are simple acts to us are often miracles to others.
As one rabbi points out, making small efforts toward others can actually lead to a dramatic — some would say miraculous — transformation in interpersonal relationships.
Complimenting our spouses, children or co-workers, or taking the time to truly listen and respond to what they have to say, can work small wonders.
It's easy to discount such gestures. But when many people go out of their way to make them, they can collectively lead to large wonders.
With that in mind, may this Chanukah be a time not only for recalling ancient miracles but creating modern ones.