Sometimes it takes a setback to appreciate life
Margaret is an active 76-year-old woman who doesn't let age slow her down. At least, not if she can help it.
But sometimes all the determination in the world won't let us do what we want to do. Sometimes, we can't even do the simple things we take for granted.
Margaret usually spends her days doing church work, visiting with friends, or baking a cake or casserole for someone in need of a little bit of help.
She's always been one who gives help, not one who needs it.
On a morning when she was rushing around to get ready to leave the house, her active life suddenly changed while she was doing the most routine task-making her bed.
"My foot got tangled in the bedclothes at the bottom of the bed and I suddenly found myself on the floor unable to get up," she said.
She had broken her hip and the recovery was long and painful. "I have to admit it changed my entire disposition. I felt miserable and I acted miserable to everyone. I just laid there day after day feeling sorry for myself," she wrote.
She said it was a group of church women who were able to turn her attitude around. "They weren't even from my church but they often came to visit me during my long recuperation," she said.
Margaret told me she became a lot more tolerant of her situation and a lot happier when she learned to focus on what she could do, instead of what she couldn't do.
"I learned we take a lot for granted. We never appreciate being able to walk until we can't do it anymore," she said.
The same week I heard from Margaret, I also received an email from a reader named Bonita with a somewhat similar story. She said she recently had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
"As I took some rest from the knee exercises and the few household chores I could manage yesterday, I picked up the newspaper to read and relax. I came upon your article that said, "Every Moment of Life Is Special." I couldn't move on to other reading until I read it one more time. I just stopped, put the paper down and thought about how true your message is and how I can apply that to my own life," she wrote.
"Sometimes we need to meet a crisis in our lives to truly appreciate ourselves, those around us, and just where we've been, where we are, and where we are going in life. The article was a reminder not to take anything for granted in life and appreciate the "now," she added.
Although I've never met her, I've enjoyed emailing back and forth with Bonita because she seems to have some good, homespun wisdom. She said she learned that even the "incidentals" in life are not to be overlooked.
She's right when she says a crisis is often one of life's great teachers.
Sometimes, it does, indeed, take a setback for us to appreciate what we have.
We don't regard being able to walk as a gift, until we can't do it anymore.
We don't think about the gift of movement and how intricate and miraculous our bodies are - until we lose what we took for granted.
I seldom rejoice when I can jump from a boat, dance to a beat, or join in an exercise class. I take that movement for granted until an injury or age-related problems make me aware of something that hurts when I move.
Like many other women, I complain that my legs are too heavy. Instead, I should be thankful that I have sturdy legs to help me enjoy life.
Bonita is right when she pinpoints that it's often a health crisis that makes us appreciate movement we used to take for granted.
I complain a lot about having to wear glasses. I always seem to be losing them, either temporarily or for good. Last week, I lost another expensive pair.
But I stop my complaining when I realize how lucky I am that those confounded glasses enable me to see.
I just talked with an acquaintance who was complaining because she has to have cataract surgery. Yet, cataract surgery is one advancement that allows so many of us to retain our gift of sight. Best yet, many emerge from the surgery not having to wear glasses at all.
Medical advancements make it possible for us to lead better, longer lives. But we don't think about that either, until something stops working. Then we ask: "Why can't they fix it?"
We never think how good it is to be able to hear all sounds, until we find our hearing isn't as good as it used to be.
As we age, our appreciation for things great and small seems to grow with each advancing year. Maybe that's because we are more likely to experience setbacks as we age.
But I like to think it's because we grow wiser as we grow older.
When you think about it, advanced age is a gift, too.
As they say, it sure beats the alternative.