“I hope that we never take for granted the little things again.” (Lauren B, Staten Island, New York)
My blog post here was inspired by this quote I read in an online article, “What we can’t wait to do when the pandemic is over.”1 In a previous blog post I talked about making a post-COVID “different kind of To Do list” that was more along the lines of declaring your intentions to the Universe, and sending out the energy of hope. This post takes that a little further . . .
Lauren B of Staten Island went on to say:
I hope that in the future we never take for granted the little things again like crowded subway cars, handshakes, and embracing loved ones. Once it is safe, I plan to travel internationally more … something I have put off due to money, work, and family obligations. The pandemic has shown me that we cannot put off things we want to do because we may never get another chance to do so.
Appreciate crowded subway cars?? Yes! Think about it: they’re mechanical wonders that (almost) always are working. Millions of city residents have depended on them for decades to get to their jobs so they can feed their families and pay their bills. Or to go to various cultural happenings. Or to visit and connect with one another.
But we tend to take so many everyday such things for granted. So many modern marvels, feats of human invention, happenings in Nature, personal interactions and acts of kindness, and much more.
Thinking about this got me viewing some recent happenings in a different, expanded light. The light of Gratitude . . .
A couple weeks ago, I saw the surgeon and set a May date for my hip replacement. Frankly, I’m nervous about undergoing surgery. But how blessed I am that this surgery even exists. A mere 70 years ago I would instead be facing severely limited mobility and bone-on-bone grinding pain for the rest of my life. I realized how grateful I am for medical science, skilled surgeons, healthcare workers, and hospitals.
Last week, my sisters invited me to join them at their vacation rental week at the Jersey shore—at their expense—saying that it would be something for me to look forward to after the surgery. For almost two decades, I’ve traveled “back east” to visit with family in Philadelphia and go “down the shore” (as we say in Philly). But due to moving from CO to AZ and then the pandemic, I haven’t seen my Philly family or the ocean in three years. And I realized I was filled with gratitude for the gift my family is to me, and the marvel that the ocean is.
And for the past weeks (months, years!) as I’ve become increasingly immobile with my bum hip, hubby Steve has been incredible—fetching, carrying, chauffeuring, serving, helping with whatever I’ve needed. I know, he’s my spouse and partner (of almost 38 years) and this is what spouses/partners are “supposed” to do for each other. But I observe how easy it is to take this for granted. He’s gone “above and beyond the call of duty” and I have a new sense of appreciation and gratitude for all he does (including spending hours today to get my music playlists onto my phone so I can listen to them post-op).
Unfortunately, yesterday I had to postpone the surgery (long story) but the entire process—as well as COVID—has provided a lot of soul learning. While I’ve always appreciated the above things and a lot of other things, now I see by the absence or heightened presence of them over the past year+ how really important they are to me.
Author Kurt Vonnegut famously said:
Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.
In this vein, sitting here on our patio in just the past five minutes, I noticed so many, many little things I easily take for granted: the sense of magic invoked by listening to the breeze gently moving through neighbors’ wind chimes. The feeling of joy as I watch a tiny Hummingbird zip around and then alight on the tree by our patio wall. The warmth of friendship and relationship I feel as I look at our now magical backyard—envisioned and implemented by a dear friend and Steve. The memories of a wonderful Hawaii vacation rekindled by seeing and hearing a jet plane high up in the sky.
Now, instead of just glossing over these “little things,” I can take a moment to savor them and view them with gratitude. And I realized that Gratitude is one of the guideposts—the scenic vistas—to explore on our Path: Forgiveness, Trust, Compassion, Connection, Tolerance, Respect, and now Gratitude.
So, here’s your assignment:
* As you go through your day, observe the little things that you usually take for granted.
* Take a moment to see the gift they are.
* Feel gratitude for the gift they are.
Yes, if you choose, this could be another daily “practice.” (I know, there seem to be a lot of them. But I’m confident we’re up to the challenge. Maybe let your inner-knowing guide you about which practice to, well, practice at any given time.)
And yes, subway cars can be crowded and dirty sometimes. Our healthcare system is stressed and broken. People in relationship with us sometimes are impatient, express tempers, and let us down. And the natural world in AZ also has rattlesnakes and scorpions. But they are all still gifts, even if some can be challenging, or are broken and need fixing.
Circling back to Lauren B from Staten Island, so we should appreciate crowded subway cars? Seize the moment and not put off what we want? Make plans? Yes!! Experts say we may return to “normalcy” by end of summer. So I suggest we start now to notice the little things (and generate our post-pandemic To Do lists) so we can go back to our lives soon with renewed appreciation and gratitude. (And maybe plan how we can contribute to fix what’s broken.)
And lastly, for a change, I end with what I usually begin with: a definition . . .
Gratitude. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Be it, show it, return kindness for it. And pay the kindness forward.
P.S. Another quote from that article struck me:
One reader from Chicago wrote, “It drew some of us closer and others further apart. For those of us who grew apart I don’t see how we can reconcile our differences when you begin to see blatant disregard for public safety measures and the well-being of your community.”
It’s easy to slide into anger and contempt for those on the other side of the chasm—regardless of which side you stand on. But I had the thought that maybe the first steel girder to put in place to build a bridge over that chasm is feeling compassion for those on the other side. Maybe think about what might be at the root of their stance. Like maybe deep, unrelenting fear of . . . something?
1 Opinion by Jhodie-Ann Williams, CNN website