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October 29th

When I was thirsty earlier this morning, I rolled out of my bed and strode across the house to our kitchen. The compartment of the kitchen unit in which the cups are stored is a couple of inches beyond my standing reach. So, I tip-toed and pulled one out. And as per usual, I span round to come face to face with the fridge and pushed the tip of the cup against the dispenser lever on its door. In a flash, cold, clean water trickled into it.

I do this very often but today was different. Right there in the middle of the kitchen, encompassed by silence so vivid that my own thoughts were audible, the rest of the world oblivious to my epiphany, I said, “God, thank you. Thank you for the small privileges that aren’t so small.” I needn’t walk miles for my water. I did not have to balance a load on my head, taking care not to spill. I needn’t measure how much I could use then, worrying that there wouldn’t be enough for later. I did not have to worry about where I would source my next supply. It was just there: an endless supply of clean, fresh water within my reach.

And it struck me then, stood in the middle of our tiny kitchen, my gaze fixed on the water nestled in that tiny glass, how many of these seemingly small privileges I take for granted. I am hardly ever thankful for the clothes on my back because I throw a closet door open and I see a stack from which I could choose. I am often oblivious to the roof over my head because I come and go as I please and it is always there. It is never blown away by the wind nor do I worry that the room might cave in. It’s just there, firm, doors wide open, ready to wrap me in its warm. While I eat, I have never thought to myself, “wow, I am actually eating. I have food on my table.” I can see. I can hear. I can walk. I can talk. I have never made a conscious effort to be aware of these things nor to acknowledge their being abilities that I could possibly not have.

These are seemingly small things, things to which I perhaps feel entitled because I have become so accustomed to having them. But in truth, they are privileges; privileges because so many are deprived of them, because I am no more deserving of them than the next man. And that has become a recurring theme in my life: that I should have without realizing that I have; I am blessed, but I am often oblivious to it.

In the last year of my life, I set out to practice conscious gratitude, to be more aware of what I had. But I instead found myself in this loop of wanting more and feeling as though I never had enough, feeling as though my cup were empty. I often found myself focusing on what I did not have. Is it not funny how both having and lacking illicit a desire for more, how with an ungrateful heart it is easy to mistake the former for the latter?

Listen, there is nothing wrong with wanting more for yourself. In fact, Heaven would have that we work to better ourselves… but with an ever-present gratitude. While it is okay to want more, it is very easy to lose sight of what you do have if you do not stop and take a look around ever so often. A desire for more does not necessarily entail ingratitude; the two are not mutually exclusive. However, they are so closely related because wanting more has a way of undermining what we already have, of making it seem less desirable, less important; it progressively diminishes the magnitude of our blessings. Similarly, familiarity in itself further breeds thanklessness. We are so used to what we have that we hardly notice it, that to have it feels like a norm, even when it isn’t.

The truth (and perhaps the point of all this) is you and I have. We have so much. In the midst of so many have-nots, we have a lot… and then some. We may not have what we want, but we for sure have what we need. We are just insatiable beings. The desire for more will always plague us. There is always going to be more to chase, more to desire. And if you and I do not soon learn to be thankful for what we already have, if we do not learn to cultivate a culture of gratitude, to be satisfiable, we will spend our whole lives chasing… and chasing some more.

The popular mantra is “Gratitude is a must”. That’s all good and true. But it neglects to specify that it is a conscious gratitude that is vital. Gratitude only evoked by some massive victory does very little to train a thankless heart to be appreciative of the ubiquitous little things. Because what happens in the moments when victories are so minute and do not immediately strike the eye? What happens when blessings are in the form of things we are so used to having, things that we hardly notice?

It is a conscious gratitude that is a must, that is vital. The gratitude that purposefully looks for that for which to be grateful, that acknowledges that even the most minuscule things are blessings nonetheless. It is that gratitude that elicits contentment. Yes, we are insatiable beings by nature, but who ever said we cannot train ourselves to be satisfied? A large portion of happiness in this life stems from contentment, from knowing your enough. If you do not learn to be grateful, to be satisfied, nothing you do in this life will ever suffice.

So, yes, please do want better for yourself. There is no law against that. I myself wish to be in a better position than I am today. But there is a law against letting our desire for what we wish to have blind us from seeing what we already have. God despises a thankless heart. I know you want to fill your cup. But if you do not start by acknowledging and being thankful for the water that already is in the cup, filling it to the brim will do very little to satisfy you. Start with acknowledging what you have. Start with a satisfiable heart. Start with contentment. It is one of the pillars of happiness in this life.

In the next year of my life, I am setting out to practice a conscious gratitude, to be more aware of what I have, to be more content. You should too. There is no such thing as “small privileges”. It’s all just privileges. And you and I have plenty of those. Shall we then be more grateful for them? Shall we sit at the end of a long, terrible day and still look for things to be grateful for? Shall we say to God, “That was a horrible day. But I am here. I am alive. I can see. I can hear. I walk. I can talk. I have a roof over my head. Clothes on my back. Food on my table. That is so much. That is enough. Thank you, God, for the small privileges that aren’t so small.”

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