Autumn splendor on Waco Creek at the 15th Street bridge off Webster Avenue.

There are many things I love about my husband: He knows how to grill a steak just the way I like it, he does most of the grocery shopping, he brought Mo-town and peppermint ice cream into my life, he’s good looking, etc. etc.

But if I had to pick the one trait I love most of all about Mr. Thornton, it’s that he has a wonderful capacity for delight. He laughs out loud at the Sunday morning funnies. When he is reading a good book, he reads the best lines out loud to me. He takes full-hearted joy in watching our dogs zoom around the house. A cookie, an onion ring, the sound of a wind chime, a full moon, clean sheets, warm towels, elephant jokes…he delights me nearly every day by taking delight in things I might have missed.

A few weekends ago our Waco Walks group took a walk with Erika Huddleston. Erika is an artist who specializes in “nature paintings in urban settings.” Thanks to the Art Center of Waco, she has a series of paintings on exhibit at the Mayborn Museum that are her interpretations of winding Waco Creek. Our walk with Erika took us into parts of town that many of us — left to our own inclinations — might have avoided. As is my habit sometimes, I saw plenty of ugly things: disturbing graffiti made all the more disturbing by the obvious artistic talent of the ones who created it, a stringer of dead fish covered with flies and stink, broken concrete and glass and, finally, trash — everywhere trash.

Thanks to Erika’s gentle leadership, we also saw some beautiful things. One of the most beautiful was standing on the 15th Street bridge overlooking Waco Creek listening to Erika talk about what she saw there. She described how the chaos and beauty of nature in the midst of the imposed structure of the city inspired and delighted her. Through her delight and vision, I saw the limestone, the fall color in the leaves, the tiny fish… all beauty I might have missed.

As part of my job at Baylor University I have been doing a little tutoring at J.H. Hines Elementary. We are trying to figure out ways that the university can partner with public schools within a two-mile radius of campus for the benefit of both. I was working through a box of sight-word cards with a first-grader the other day when he grabbed the pile of cards containing words he had read successfully and fanned them out like hundred-dollar bills. “Look at all the words I can read!” he beamed. Little kids are notorious carriers of delight.

I called my mom one night. Our family Christmas plans are a little rushed this year and I needed to delicately negotiate spending time with family in Houston while still getting back to Waco in time for church obligations. I was slightly annoyed when she didn’t answer the phone. The next morning I got a text: “Sorry I missed your call — watching ‘Sound of Music’ and singing along. Please try again.”

Thanks, Mom, for raising me to understand the importance of delight!

As one year sets and another rises, heavy problems loom for our city and our world. Good people have been chopping away at them for a long time. Sometimes it feels like we are making progress, sometimes it doesn’t. How do we keep going? How do we renew our spirits? Keep an eye out for the delights along the way, my friends, and keep on chopping! Merry Christmas to all and onward to 2018!

Baylor University administrator and civic leader Ashley Bean Thornton has lived in Waco almost 20 years. She oversees Act Locally Waco, a blog that offers economic opportunities and highlights various community happenings. She also likes to walk. If you see her out and about, honk your horn, wave and say, “Hi.”