If you’ve ever spent time in a developing country you quickly develop gratitude for the amazing quality of life enjoyed by those living in the U.S. and elsewhere. And it’s the little things you notice. If you have had access to ice cubes today consider yourself blessed.
After spending a hot summer drinking nothing but warm coke, lukewarm water, and hot herbal tea there was nothing like coming home, walking to the freezer and adding some beautiful ice cubes to whatever drink I was drinking. That first sip of something cold was truly one of the greatest moments of my life. As I write this I can still conjure the same depth of gratitude I felt for the miracle of those little squares of frozen water. Absolutely wonderful. I probably drove everyone crazy with my over-the-top enthusiasm for an icy drink, that’s how grateful I was.
Since that time, over 20 years ago, that feeling of gratitude has stayed with me. And not just the gratitude for the ice cubes, but the lessons I learned from people who, materially, had nothing, but were happier then most people I knew who had a lot. They taught me about real and lasting happiness even in the midst of dire physical circumstances.
As I’ve continued my life-journey things haven’t always — or ever — been “easy.” Early in my marriage life was really tough. My husband was active duty Army and soldier pay isn’t great. Combined with some poor choices we made, we teetered on the edge of financial destruction. One night I was invited to a get-together with some of the other wives of my husband’s unit. We were all supposed to bring $1 to donate to help with the needs of another soldier’s family. I searched all through our apartment and managed to scrape together $.97 before my ride picked me up. I fought back tears all the way to the party and by the time I arrived was feeling so sorry for myself and my life that I could hardly talk to or even look at anyone.
It didn’t matter that I was driving in an air-conditioned car, wearing clean clothes, and going to a party partly celebrating freedom and friendship and where I was sure to have some great food. All I could focus on was my current plight and the deep shame, embarrassment and frustration I felt.
Upon arriving we walked inside a lovely home, filled with smiling women and the hostess immediately welcomed us with a hug and something else — a cold drink. I numbly accepted her hug and drink and looked around for a corner to slink into. As I sipped my drink, with ice, and looked around the fog began to lift. I might not have a dollar in my wallet, at that moment, but no doubt that would change in the future. I lived in the United States where I had access to work, food, shelter, clothing, and so on and not just at a basic level. My quality of life, compared to so many others around the globe was, and is, disproportionately better and easier. The cold drink quickly reminded me just how much I did have.
Life is a constant struggle, but every time I plop an ice cube into my drink, I’m quickly reminded of all the great things about my life. Seven healthy kids — which is amazing — a great marriage, shelter with indoor plumbing and heat, a grocery store nearby, living in a place of relative peace and safety, and the list goes on an on.
Gratitude is something I practice because it bring me peace and perspective and allows me to see the good in my life. And it is good — especially when there’s cold drink in my hand.