My father’s good friend recently passed away suddenly from a heart attack while out to dinner at a barbecue restaurant. Normally, this isn’t how I would start off one of my articles about love and happiness, but the lesson I learned from his wife would help me to appreciate my every day blessings in a profoundly different way. You see, each night the husband would come into the bedroom with a glass of water and set it on the wooden night stand. Each night, his wife would remind him to “put a coaster down or it will cause a ring!” before he would remember to protect the tabletop with this simple step. In the morning, he almost never remembered to remove the glass from the previous night. Many days his wife entered their room to find clusters of half-drank water glasses sitting on the nightstand.
The day he unexpectedly died, his wife wearily returned to their home and was greeted by three glasses faithfully stationed beside the bed. When his widow told my father this story at his funeral, she said, “now I realize how much I am going to miss cleaning up his water glasses and having to insist on him using a coaster”. As I heard this story, I realized that in our busy lives we often have so much on our minds that the abundant signs of our daily blessings can be disguised as annoyances or inconveniences. Sadly we only realize the significance of their worth once they are gone. This lesson is so impactful, partially because it is all about taking responsibility for your own perception of your daily reality.
Those who see a pile of dirty dishes as a reminder that they are lucky enough to have food in their bellies are likely to find the chore of washing them much more spiritually fulfilling.
It is easy to allow ourselves to think negatively in many areas of our lives and to instead chase the wrong areas of fulfillment such as money, fame, possessions, or power. It’s so easy to fall into the rut of negativity because thinking negatively is simply easier than thinking positively. It takes work to see the silver lining of any situation. Taking a brief moment to realize that the traffic you are stuck in on your commute is a result of having the good fortune to be employed, live in a country with developed infrastructure, and being able to afford a way to get around, will hopefully help you take pleasure in the hidden blessings in life. As I plan my own wedding to my fiancé, I think about what type of future I want for our marriage and myself as a wife. I don’t want to allow the evidence of a messy, beautiful life to be the anchor that weighs me down.
To see the water glasses on the table and smile as you clean them up because it means you have another day with the person you love requires going emotionally uphill when it would be easier instead to sigh and stomp our feet as we let gravity drag us back down. Each of us have a conscious choice to make every time we are confronted with the seemingly mundane daily chores that we feel are holding us back from being as happy as we could be. Perhaps, just changing the way we think about the everyday is the key to making us happier than we could ever have imagined.