I like to say we should learn to recognize all the goodness around us today before the passage of time inevitably makes us appreciate all we once had and ignored.
And, as we all understand, the day of that understanding could dawn much sooner than later.
If you're anything like me (and I suspect many are), you've spent much of a lifetime taking so much around you for granted. It's pretty much who we are as a species and what we instinctively seem to do in our rush to cram as much as possible into every day.
I'm not certain what it is about the human condition that leads us to feel that those things we initially come to value often become the very experiences, people and precious enjoyments we also will devalue over time.
When life was new and fresh, the senses were awash in exciting colors, fragrances and fresh experiences that dazzled me in so many ways. Discovering all the beauty and joy life could provide was perhaps the most exciting time of being alive. The smell of flowers, muffins baking, new rainfall, even a mud puddle were fascinating, along with the buzz of a bumblebee, crickets chirping on a summer's night, a mockingbird's unlikely repertoire, or the sight of a thousand fireflies flashing in a field. It all fueled a captivating sense of wonder.
Expectations abounded. I anticipated the first date and kiss and was overjoyed when others of my age accepted me. I became darn near apoplectic at the prospect of getting my very own set of wheels. Then those things came and went, relegated to the mundane and ignored. Once-passionate kisses became bypassed altogether in the crush of life's constant demands. Friends frequently were overlooked to the point where I couldn't make time to even place a phone call. And after a relatively short time I was wolfing down Taco Bell in my car and spilling that spicy red sauce on the front seat.
Truth be known, the taking-for-granted aspect of our existence becomes most painfully obvious if we lose someone close or get a bad diagnosis to remind us of our own mortality.
We never give it a second thought anymore that hot water flows from the faucet when we turn a handle. Grocers' shelves are packed with practically every foodstuff available, often many varieties. Toilet paper has become something we expect to be waiting. The streets outside are paved, the roof doesn't leak, and we have cool inside air circulating during the summer and warmth in the winter.
Yes, valued readers, the list of all we take for granted is beyond extensive.
A close friend once told me that if we each got what we truly deserved in our lifetime, the disappointment would be devastating. Imagine how little that would be. And my parents were right as usual when, as a precocious child who hated some vegetables, I was repeatedly reminded of how many people across the planet were starving that very night.
Pause for just a moment to reflect on what we have rather than what we don't. It really is quite amazing. There are schools, vehicles, electricity, garbage trucks, landfills, cell phones (well ...), computers, purified water, and churches where the concept is to sacrifice an entire hour a week giving thanks for it all, including life itself.
I didn't write this today as any sort of admonishment to myself or anyone else. Rather, I hope it causes at least a bit of reflection when it comes to all the appreciation and awe we once had over what today seems like the smallest thing. In looking back, there were really no small things. Everything from the beauty and fragrance of flowers and initial rainfall, to the marvel of honey bees, the thrill of those first kisses and beyond melded to form who we have become all these years later.
Yet of the seemingly endless list of all we've come to insufficiently appreciate, the one with the greatest impact on our lives is how often we take for granted our own family members and loved ones. When our end moment arrives, it will have been our relationships that had the most significant effects on our existences. Yet we often come to act as if they will always be around when the realities of life show us each day nothing could be further from fact. This consciousness thing we share could be--and frequently is--over in the flash of a firefly's tail.
Perhaps it would be a sign of wisdom if each of us makes an effort here in the second half of life's game to reclaim some of the appreciation for everything about existence along with the recollections of what so much was like before we began taking virtually everything for granted.
Hey, just a simple thought, even the process of which, within this meaty body we temporarily inhabit, also too easily escapes our wonder and appreciation.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial on 10/27/2019