When doing the breakfast dishes the other morning, I glanced up at the open shelves above my kitchen sink and smiled at the pretty stacks of bowls and plates that have collected there over the years. Given the events of the past week, it's not a surprise that I felt a tickle of appreciation that they're all still there, brightly colored and wobbly stacked, ready to hold a biscuit or a bowl of something hot.
Sometimes, I realized, its helpful to be grateful for what didn't happen.
So for the rest of the day I tried to remember to notice and appreciate all the things which had not happened. It was an interesting experiment. Of course, one could get carried away ("Wow, I'm so glad the refrigerator door didn't fall off when I slammed it just now !") but this idea of realizing how much we take for granted is a powerful thing to do, especially these days.
Here are a few that came up while getting ready for a dinner party last night:
Gratitude that a plague of pests did not land on the field where the onion that I was chopping grew.
Gratitude that I did not slice open my thumb on the dull knife that I haven't gotten around to sharpening.
Gratitude, for reasons I can't even begin to understand, to the refrigerator that did not fail me today . Gratitude, too, for the uncountable not-failings of the electricity and the electrical plant that runs my refrigerator and for the processing plant that did not malfunction and dirty the water coming from my tap.
Gratitude to the farmer who did not get sick and was able to feed the chicken that laid the egg I'm about to crack into this bowl which did not break when I tipped it into my hand from its place on a high shelf.
Gratitude that my dinner guests did not get sick, or have a car accident, or even just flake out and cancel at the last minute.
Gratitude to the bacteria that remained friendly in my homemade sauerkraut sitting on my counter (it nearly always does this, by the way.)
Gratitude that my foot did not slip on that piece of raw onion that fell on the floor, sending my head smack into the corner of the stove and me into a 15-year coma.
And so on. Pausing in the middle of our life to sum up our blessings is always a good thing. Counting them in this reverse manner is a great revealer of how much actually does go right and, like it or not, how exquisite (and capricious) the balance is that keeps us safe and alive.
Some of us will donate money to the Red Cross for Japan relief, or buy a special poster or hold a bake sale. Some of us will go to Japan to help with reconstruction, or study the ways of the natural world for a more safe and sustainable energy source. But all of us, no matter what our talent or intellect, can find a way to discover and express our gratitude for the things, too innumerable to count, that went right today.
Related: Weekend Meditation: Broken
(Image: Dana Velden)