Simple Gifts of Life

Reflections of a Grateful Receiver

by Jim Gleason

My nephew, Jake (suffering from Leukemia for the past year) and I (slowing down with a heart condition) have been talking, and we've both been corresponding with Lale (suffering from an inability to walk, not to mention the pains), and together it is very obvious that the simple gifts of life often go unnoticed by us all. Unnoticed, that is, until we are forced to sit/lay down and see what it's like when those daily simple God-given gifts are withheld for various lengths of time. What kinds of things am I talking about? How about a day not filled with constant pain? We all assume pain is a sometimes thing, and when it does hit, it will last for only a short time, right? Well, ask Lale or Michelle about that gift and what it's like when life is not pain-free for days and nights and weeks and months on end.

How about the gift of a breath? Let me tell you first hand that the feeling of drowning and not being able to breathe is not limited to some dramatic moment at the pool or seashore. That gift of breathing in and out, many times each and every minute of our lives, can be withdrawn in the darkness of night as we lay trying to sleep. Then you can't sleep, and you find out what a precious gift a simple night's sleep can be. It gets to be a real catch-22 situation - no sleep, more tiredness, more problems, less sleep, etc.

How about the simple gift of mental focus and attention. All it took was an antibiotic to cure my recent pneumonia, and, despite a doctor's protests to the contrary, my ability to care about what went on about me on a daily basis was gone, the gift of being able to read an article or sit at the PC and do anything was gone for exactly the 10 days of taking that RX. I never realized that was a gift at all - until it was gone.

Have you ever thought about pain as a gift? Recently my brother-in-law, suffering from cronic back pain for years, underwent a critical back operation. Calling to offer him sympathy and well wishes, he was overjoyed to tell me of his pain in the right leg! Over-joyed? Yes! You see, before the operation he had lost his feeling in that leg, now pain was a beautiful return to health. Sandy is an excellent example of how you can reframe anything - in this case pain into a pleasure experience. (PS: his back pain is gone!)

Still another family member - one recently youthful and strong - can share new insights based on recent experiences. As just one example, ask Jake about the simple gift of taste? He's been without that heretofore unnoticed gift for many weeks now - even the best of pizzas tasted no better than eating the cardboard box it came in. When did you ever stop to say a prayer of thanks for being able to taste?

On what may seem a still more basic level, after watching someone unable to have a bowel movement for over a week at a time, month after month - I found myself sitting on the toilet (a ververy strange prayer chapel) offering thanksgiving for the gift of a regular movement - easily, without pain, without thought - and to think I never gave it a thought before. Similarly, I've heard others describe the painful effects of hemorrhoids - sleepless nights with severe pain, inability to simply "sit down," driving the car with distracting pain mile after mile - but once you have them for several weeks ("...walking in another's moccasins"), only then do you appreciate what they really meant. To all those mothers who have birthed us and our own children and suffered the after effects of such hemorrhoidal pain, I now offer my personal understanding and empathy. "Ouch!!"

"Hot damn, another day above ground! This has got the beginnings of a great day!"

I could go on. Many of our family can offer their own personal affirmation now that they too have experienced life without such simple gifts, either personally or through the frustration of watching helplessly as a close loved one was deprived of such simple gifts. My goal is just to have you reflect on these graces God showers on each and every one of us every minute of every day. Without personally experiencing the problems described above, I would hope that you join me in adding to your daily habits a moment of simple prayer - a moment each morning (or evening) to count such simple blessings and say: "God, thank You for all those days too common to be noticed!"

Many have laughed with me when I respond to their query "How are you doin'?" with the story of getting out of bed in the morning, looking down and saying that simple morning prayer: "I hot damn, another day above ground! This has got the beginnings of a great day!" Isn't that what it's all about, appreciating the simple things of life - and responding to Him with our prayer of thanks? Then, of course, there's that oft overlooked gift of family and friends - like you. "Thanks for being you!"


Jim Gleason

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