Aleksandr Solzhenitsyns autobiographical novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich has been an in-spiration to me ever since I read it 25 years ago. I almost never complain without remembering the politically imprisoned Russian who manicured the coverlet on his narrow cot and imagined he lived in a mansion instead of a dingy cell.
I often wonder: could I do it? Could I find anything to be thankful for under such conditions? Our current war against terror, highlighted by the recently-released American aid workers from their squalor-ridden prison, has brought such a possibility chillingly close to home.
But, today, I sit in a land of limited restriction and infinite permission with no idea at all how Id react. Still, these thoughts wont go away, especially now as I compose my annual Thanks-giving list.
begin with gratitude that I can write or say what I think without fear of censor or arrest. But after that, instead of dwelling on the usual - home, family, satisfying work and good health - Im going to practice what I hope I would do under the above circumstances by thanking God for the minutia of just one day. I do this cautiously, however, erasing any presumption that I would respond to injustice with nearly the courage of those young American women, or the former Russian prisoner.
The alarm clock rings and I wake instantly because I can hear. I slide out of bed, raise the shades and walk downstairs because I can see where Im going and my legs are strong enough to take me there. I turn on the light and the water because natural resources are in ample supply, and my income is sufficient to pay for connecting them to my home.
I open the refrigerator for juice and milk, and the cupboard for cereal and tea, because I can also pay for supplies so abundantly available in well-stocked stores all over town. I dress for the day because I have something to do or some place to go, and a closet full of appropriate clothing to wear.
The phone rings, connecting me to family, fellow worker or friend, and the outside world. I take a walk, breathe unpolluted air, and use my sight, strength and hearing for pleasure as well as need. I catch up on news someone else compiled while I slept because someone taught me to read and a free press allows the information to reach my door.
My car responds to the turn of a key and takes me where I choose to go on roadways built for my safety and convenience. Errands done, I return to the address I call my own. Mail, messages, another meal or time to rest precede more choices and activities which, unlike Solzhenitsyn, I dont have to fantasize into meaning. As day ends, I pull the shades, reset the clock, and return to bed to await another day.
My gratitude increases when I consider the difference between my day and that of my parents a generation ago. When they were my age we didnt live in a climate-controlled brick house with adequate room, water and power on demand. I was in high school before we had a car. Both my parents had false teeth before they were 40, and a succession of poorly-treated illnesses which claimed my fathers life and my mothers mobility long before their anticipated threescore years and 10.
Their days were far more complicated than mine have ever been. Still, I received my tendency toward thankfulness from them. Thanks-giving meals - any meal - taken at their battered table and served on mismatched china were always plentiful and nutritious.
So, this Thanksgiving, rather than dwelling on unpredictable to-morrows or an un-changeable past, I join an optimist from the days of the cold war, courageous young women who value faith and charity above their own safety, and the Psalmist who wrote, This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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