No one likes to be taken for granted. Feeling forgotten, unimportant, or under-appreciated is never fun. Sadly, we all know this feeling – many of us are probably feeling that way today.
While we all understand this feeling and hate it when we are taken for granted, it doesn’t stop us from doing this with others. In fact, it’s surprisingly easy to forget the good things we enjoy every day and the work of others in our life. It certainly is for me.
Are You Taking This For Granted?
Our forgetfulness is probably the reason why there are so many commemorative days listed on our calendar. Some of them can get a bit comical and are a little on the ridiculous side (though I do have World Pizza Day on May 9 and National Donut Day on June 9 circled on my calendar). However, other days are there for a reason – they help us stop our routines for a moment to appreciate, remember, and not take normal life for granted. Days like Memorial Day can be a great reminder that we are where we are today because of the significant sacrifices and accomplishments of others yesterday.
So, in that spirit, let’s stop and take a quick assessment of what we have been given. In a world of negative news and cynicism, it is always life-giving to think about the things that make our life good that we often overlook or under-appreciate.
Is it possible you are taking for granted…
Where are you sitting right now? If you’re like me, you’re enjoying the air conditioning. Have you ever stopped to think what it must have been like without AC? I live in Dallas, Texas, and the thought of no cool air during the summer is making me start to sweat right now. Which means, I need to take a moment and be grateful for Willis Carter. Have you heard of him? I hadn’t until I started writing this article.
In 1902, Carter, an American engineer, invented the first modern air conditioner. And, it wasn’t until 1914 that the first AC unit was installed in a private home. That means that throughout all of human history, it is only those of us who have lived in the past 100 years who have been able to escape stifling summer temperatures.
…The Ease of Education and Access to Information?
Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate our education – especially when we’re dealing with student loans. And, for those that still have a long ways to go before graduation, it can feel more like a burden than a blessing. However, knowledge can be empowering, and for a long time, most people didn’t have access to that power.
In the information age, where knowledge is just one Google search away on a smartphone, it is easy to forget that in 1900, almost 80% of the adults in the world couldn’t read, let alone search the Internet on a personal computer, since neither was invented yet.
In his excellent book, “The Emperor of all Maladies,” Siddhartha Mukherjee writes an often heart-breaking biography on the scourge of cancer throughout history. In one section, he talks about the difficulty of breakthroughs in cancer treatments throughout the centuries due to the lack of other medical advancements. He explains, “In the absence of anesthesia and antibiotics, most surgical operations performed in the dank chamber of a medieval clinic – or more typically in the back room of a barbershop with a rusty knife and leather straps for restraints – were disastrous, life-threatening affairs.”
As complicated and problematic as the healthcare system is today, after reading that horrifying description, I immediately became grateful for the benefits of modern surgery. It is so easy to take for granted that surgeries today are often successful, most infants are born without endangering the mother, and many medicines exist to help with infections and issues.
Many of you reading this article live in the United States, where we celebrate Memorial Day each year. Recently, I have made it a tradition to watch at least one episode from one of my favorite television shows, Band of Brothers, on Memorial Day weekend. It helps me think differently about a sacrifice I have never had to make for my country personally. Each time I watch that show, it makes me think just a little deeper about what it must have felt like to be thrust into something as dangerous and chaotic as war. I’ve never had to contemplate my own mortality while stepping out to defend our country. It makes me grateful for those who gave their lives for my freedom today.
Many of you don’t need a television show to remind you to be grateful for a veteran – you are a veteran or you know or lost someone who fought for our freedom. You don’t need a reminder that freedom isn’t free at all – it comes at a steep price.
All too often I take the privileges that freedom affords for granted. I can worship freely, vote, and even openly critique my government if I choose. We shouldn’t so easily forget that many people today don’t experience that type of freedom, and most throughout history didn’t either.
Today’s Normal was Yesterday’s Extraordinary
The things we regularly enjoy now are easy to take for granted. They become part of our normal life. So, it’s important to remember these things are not normal… at least they haven’t been normal for most of history. The comforts we experience today were extraordinary not that long ago. And all of these comforts are based on the sacrifice, struggle, and hard work of those who came before us.
So, let’s not take them for granted. And, if you know a veteran, say thanks.