Over the last few years, at any given time I’ve had at least two friends whose CaringBridge site I was following. If you don’t know CaringBridge, it’s a wonderful online way to keep in touch with family and friends while going through an illness. Often it’s cancer, but not always. It’s also been ALS, heart disease, difficult surgeries. When I see an update in my inbox these days, I don’t automatically know who it’s about. It could be one of several.
I’ve thought about that a lot while lying on my couch recovering from my own surgery. Mine was no big deal, so I didn’t need a CaringBridge site. But I did send out an email to a number of friends and they’ve been so great at stopping by with food or coming to walk my dog or sending super sweet prayers via email and phone.
Even though I think that my gratitude practice is pretty good – I’ve been at it since childhood and it’s kept me sane through the toughest times in my life – there’s nothing like a little time without one’s usual capacities to put that gratitude in perspective. Like, how often recently have you been grateful for the ability to bend over and pick something up? I had no idea how many times a day I did that until it took enormous effort each time. Scooping the dog’s food into a bowl and then picking it up later in the plastic bag when it’s run its course. Picking up the used Kleenex that didn’t quite hit the waste basket. Picking up the letter that slips out of your hand from the pile of mail. Picking up the carrot slice that slid off the cutting board and onto the floor. I tell you, picking shit up is something we do a lot of. Until we can’t. And then it’s like, “Whoa, why haven’t I been more grateful for the ability to pick shit up?!”
My minister asked in a sermon recently, “What if the only things you have tomorrow were the things you were grateful for today? Would you have a shower in the morning? A cup of coffee? Gas in the car? Clothes to wear?” I sat up a little taller in my seat as she asked this. I’m kind of smug about my gratitude practice. You should ask my son about my dinner prayers, “… and thank you for the worms that loosened the soil and the farm workers who picked the vegetables and the truckers who brought them to the store and the grocery clerks who stocked the shelves and –“
“Mom! Can we just eat now??”
But I don’t think I included thanks for the ability to bend over and pick up a used Kleenex.
I would now. Or at least this week, while last week’s aches and pains are still fresh in my mind. This week I’m also grateful for a body capable of healing quickly. For friends who bring soup and wheelchairs and laughter. For Netflix and remote controls. For health insurance and paid sick leave. For my smart phone connecting me to the world beyond my couch. For Kleenex that make it into the waste basket the first time.
And I’m grateful for my friends who do need Caringbridge. For their willingness to ask for help and share their vulnerability and for the community that surrounds them, the love that pours out, the amazing gift of friendship with feet.
The world has been tough this year – the killing of black people day after day after day, the plague of gun violence, the flood of Syrian refugees and the irrational reactions to them, the Republican candidates for president.
Kindness is so precious. And here’s the thing: it abounds. Thank God for that.
No, really, do. Thank God. And your friends.