It had been raining cats and dogs when I met Ana. In fact, if it had not been raining so heavily the day that I had to seek shelter with all my groceries in a nearby church, I would probably have never met this lovely old lady in her mobile wheelchair sitting exactly inside that church.
I remember very well the funny way she looked at me while I tried to get out of my soaked coat as soon as possible to not catch a cold. “All those young people! When I was young, we used to dance in the rain!”, she whispered with a bright smile on her face while I put my coat over the welcomingly warm heater. That comment was the beginning of a wonderful conversation while the rain outside pattered against the windows and literally locked us both in there.
As I soon got to know more about her, Ana actually had had an exciting, but also very tragic life, including fleeing from the Spanish Civil War across the Pyrenees or WWII that had taken her husband from her and left her a widow at the age of 19. She still glowed with energy – incredible for her age – and positivity though sitting in a wheelchair and having been diagnosed with cancer for the third time recently.
“In the end, we all have to go one day, don´t we?”, she said. “It is more about how we have lived until then, that we humbly made the world a little bit better and, that we embrace and learn how to be grateful for everything: the good, the bad, the big and especially the small things – every day. Period.” What an incredible statement after having been through so much, I thought, when leaving later, after the rain had finally stopped. How often we may probably tend to not be grateful enough without realizing it?
Are we grateful enough?
Throughout history, many stories tell of the strange phenomenon of ungratefulness – especially when one is granted every possible wish. The biblical tales of King David or Solomon, for instance, both remind us of kings who possessed close to anything one could wish for and not appreciating it appropriately, even wanting more. They clearly show the inherent danger of falling because of arrogance or ingratitude. Although these examples may be extreme ones, there is still a germ of truth in them for many: Isn’t it that one often tends to take things for granted, values things especially when they are gone or the things of our neighbors and barely practices gratitude for what one has gotten sincerely – maybe also partly because one is often too “busy” with rushing through life to stop for a second and appreciate the moment? Who of us could truly say that she/he appreciates everything all the time appropriately? Probably nobody.
Is it not strange that in societies that tend to enjoy a relatively good life, people seriously start complaining about what, in fact, are incredibly trivial issues such as the rainy weather, the unfriendly colleague that just does not want to “behave” or the lukewarm food that was delivered ten minutes too late? Indeed, ironically, one can go even further and claim that certain western societies offer everything their grandparents wished and fought for during the world wars, including, just to mention a few blessings, a good education, certain financial stability or peace. Many, however, consider this status-quo as automatically granted, and hence, often subconsciously do not appreciate it appropriately when complaining about the recent lockdown regulation, for instance, while people in India are literally dying on the street because there is no oxygen available anymore. Is something so basic such as Oxygen first have to become the “new currency” in order to make us stop for a second and appreciate how blessed we actually all are?
These extreme comparisons shall not downplay the importance of each and everyone´s worries and concerns, but they underline how important it is to remind oneself every day of how individually blessed everyone actually is. Are you, for instance, grateful to be healthy? Cancer patients only wish they were and many dying because of Covid generally wish for more time. Are you grateful to be able to and be allowed to voice your opinion? In many countries, especially women had better not. Not so long ago and sadly, even in some countries nowadays, many who did so were never seen again. Are you grateful to be relatively free to choose what you want to do with your life? For centuries, slaves dreamt of being as “free” as many of us are today, and, sadly, in several countries, some form of slavery still persists.
Undoubtedly, there is always something to be grateful for, something you are blessed with – even amidst crude adversities, as the example of Ana wonderfully displays. You may either have to look harder or, even better, change your perception in the first place. In the end, everything is a gift and even the crudest adversities may turn out to be a wonderful blessing in disguise. So, let us, especially during Co-vid, not complain about the weather, but instead learn how to dance in the rain!