"A little work, a little play,
To keep us going - and so, good day!
A little warmth, a little light,
Of love's bestowing - and so, good night!"
--George Louis du Maurier
Aleksandr Solzenitsyn's autobiographical novel, One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, has been an inspiration to me ever since I read it more than 25 years ago. Even today whenever I'm tempted to complain about my circumstances I remember the politically imprisoned Russian who took time to manicure the coverlet on his narrow cot each morning, and imagine he lived in a mansion instead of a dingy cell.
Could I do that? Could I find anything to treat with that much pride under such awful circumstances? Could I find it in my heart to be thankful I still had a roof over my head and more than a stone floor for my bed? The catastrophic events of 9-11 and our ongoing war against terror have brought such a possibility chillingly close to home.
Truthfully, as I sit in a land of limited restriction and infinite freedom, I have no idea how I would react. Still, these thoughts won't go away, especially today as I compose my annual Thanksgiving list.
I 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 -- I'm going to practice what I hope I would do under similar 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 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 to the kitchen because I can see where I'm going and my legs are strong enough to take me there. I turn on the light and water because natural resources are in ample supply where I live, 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 don't 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 ordinary day and that of my parents a generation ago. When they were my age we didn't live in a climate-controlled brick house with adequate room, water and power on demand, and 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 illness that claimed my father's life and my mother's 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. Thanksgiving meals -- any meal -- taken at their battered table and served on mismatched china were always plentiful and nutritious.
So this Thanksgiving Day, rather than dwell on unpredictable tomorrows or an unchangeable past, I join an optimist from the days of the cold war, and the Psalmist from ancient days who wrote, 'This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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