A guest post by David H. Schroeder, originally published in the Port Townsend Leader, reflects on gratitude for everyday blessings that weren't always everyday.
I am spending the winter exercising my muscles of Gratitude.
Sometime later this year, I will hug an old friend. I will welcome in a house guest. I will join a group in open song. I will applaud a live performance, and all for the first time in over a year.
When those moments come, I will feel an intense rush of Gratitude.
How long will the feeling last? Will I be able to hold onto that joyous flood of emotion for a minute? …for an hour? …for a day?
How soon will I resume taking all such blessings for granted, as I have been doing my whole life?
So I am exercising my muscles of Gratitude now, preparing them to hold onto precious moments when they do come. Ready to hold them as tightly as possible, for as long as possible.
My exercise regimen is simple: Express Gratitude for what I have here and now, even in the middle of this global You-Know-What. Appreciate things most of us have every day, but that people living in other times and in other places did not.
* * *
Animal Companions. By what miracle am I able to invite other species into my home and co-exist with them in safety and peace? That was not available in the natural world as human beings originally entered it.
It was no small achievement to meld the wild and the tame, the large and the small, the practical and the attractive — eventually allowing us to cuddle up with nature face-to-face and nose-to-nose. It took countless generations of adaptation and compromise, joy and disappointment, living and dying.
Lucky me. I can simply invite a dog onto my lap and enjoy the warmth and comfort. Oh sure, it takes some effort and training on my part, but what benefits! I cannot imagine my home without their company. When they ultimately leave us, the very house seems to have stopped breathing.
* * *
Knowledge about Poisons. For each substance we now know to be poisonous, thousands of people throughout time have died, each making the lonely, tragic discovery over and over again, until shared knowledge about that substance became widespread.
Lucky me. The vast majority of poisons I will ever encounter in my life have already been identified. All I need to do is follow tradition and instruction.
* * *
Eyeglasses. Most people throughout history could do nothing about poor eyesight. The world looked as it looked to their bare eyes, and that was it. Eyeglasses became available to a select few beginning 800 years ago, becoming commonly available in most countries only during the past 100 years.
Lucky me. I was given a pair of glasses at the age of seven, and never looked back. As a child, I was so grateful for my glasses I gave them Christmas cards.
* * *
Medical Sanitation. Only 150 years ago, doctors were still not routinely washing their hands between patients or before operations.
Lucky me. Every doctor or nurse who has ever touched me has washed their hands first.
* * *
Chocolate. The vast majority of people throughout history did not get the smallest taste of chocolate. First an unsweetened drink unique to Native Central Americans, later a European royal delicacy, chocolate became a popular mass-produced commodity only about 300 years ago.
Lucky me. I can nibble on chocolate in a nearly unlimited array of formulas, flavors, and consistencies any time I want.
* * *
Ice Cream. Most people throughout history also did not know of ice cream. It relies on uncommon technologies: artificially lowering the melting point of ice, and gently mixing air into liquid to form the familiar semi-solid we know today. It was the stuff of the upper classes and ambitious home hobbyists until about 250 years ago.
Lucky me. My evening snack awaits in the freezer.
* * *
Peanut Butter. As with chocolate, Native Central Americans discovered this delight. Peanuts were unknown in North America until the eighteenth century, and its buttery form did not become a popular commodity until the twentieth. Meat shortages during the World Wars helped secure its place on our tables.
Lucky me. I can have a dollop of peanut butter any time I want.
* * *
So, even in the middle of this global I-Still-Won’t-Say-It, I am sitting comfortably with a dog on my lap, regarding the world held in sharp focus by my eyeglasses, confident that I have not ingested a poison, certain that my coming vaccination will be administered with clean hands, anticipating a bowl of chocolate ice cream after my dinner, and presently enjoying the texture of peanut butter on my tongue.
Lucky me, indeed.
The Courtyard is grateful to David H. Schroeder for permission to reprint his reflections on gratitude. Here’s how it appeared in the print edition of the Port Townsend Leader on February 24, 2021.
Sources for Images
“Lucky Horseshoe”: Wikipedia, in the article “Horseshoe.” Man vyi, the copyright holder of the image, released the image into the public domain.
“Faithful Companion,” from Dover Electronic Clip Art for Macintosh and Windows, a source of permission-free art and designs.
The “Glasses Apostle” painting is located in the altarpiece of the church of Bad Wildungen, Germany. Image source: Wikipedia, in the article “Eyeglasses.” The image is in the public domain.
Agnes Marshall’s ice cream maker: Wikipedia, in the article “Ice Cream Makers.” The image is in the public domain.