As I walked into the shabby, broken-down college apartment, tears began to well up in my eyes. “I’m so happy,” I think, as the realization that I’m not in the military anymore truly hits home. I slowly lie down on my back in my new bedroom. My arms can almost touch both walls at the same time. I start doing snow angel movements on the carpet because I can’t remember the last time I had carpet in my bedroom. I had forgotten that the floor could be soft.
Upgrade the stained dorm carpet for a swanky couch in my in-law’s house and fast forward a few years, I had all but forgotten what the floor looked like. I was watching TV, scrolling through Reddit, and texting at the same time. When the air conditioning drifts a degree out of my comfort zone, I can adjust it from where I sit via my Nest app. When I’m hungry, I order a pizza and grumble about having to walk downstairs to get it from the delivery guy. Can you come upstairs? Door’s unlocked. I get pissed at Netflix when it asks me if I’m still there after watching five straight episodes of Bob’s Burgers. Stop judging me, Netflix. I had officially taken my life for granted.
Human beings naturally and automatically take things for granted. As time erodes our feelings of novelty and appreciation, we begin to forget what’s been given to us. The phrase “taking something for granted” signifies the belief that gifts come without a price or that someone can get something for nothing. Here’s the point: whatever you’re taking for granted, someone’s paying for it. So when we complain that our phone takes more than five seconds to send a text, it’s because we forgot that in other countries, slaves were used to make them. Even the greatest gift that humankind has ever received is taken for granted. The gift of salvation is surely free, but how often do we forget that someone had to die for it to be given?
We must cultivate an appreciation of the gifts we’ve been given. Working to truly internalize the value of the gifts we receive will amplify the joy we experience from them. When we understand that the steak and potatoes we order at a restaurant came from a cow that had to be slaughtered, a farmer that has to work under the hot sun, a truck driver who barely earns enough to feed his family, and a waitress whose whole week depends on your tip, then you might not become frustrated that the steak is slightly undercooked. Becoming aware of the effort it took to bring these things to you allows you to cultivate appreciation in your heart.
We can also cultivate appreciation about our wealth–whatever level of wealth we have–if we practice gratefulness as well. Taking wealth for granted will lead down all the wrong roads, but simply having wealth isn’t sinful. (Even the poorest Americans are heads-and-shoulders above most of the rest of the world, so I don’t refer to “wealth” as “millionaire”; I refer to it as the average American experience.) Don’t let the guilt or shame of having wealth influence you to change your lifestyle. Having an appreciation for your wealth doesn’t mean having to start a co-op, wear jorts, and sell your house for a van. Everyone has a different line for where they’ll feel comfortable with their wealth, and it’s up to you to do the shame-free work to determine where that line is. Some of you might sell your truck because you simply don’t need one, while others might choose to shop at clothing stores that don’t resource from impoverished countries. The best indicator of where to start looking is your wallet. Bank accounts don’t lie; take a look and try to discover where you might be taking your wealth for granted.[clickToTweet tweet=”When we cultivate an attitude of appreciation, we find more joy in life.” quote=”When we cultivate an attitude of appreciation, we find more joy in life.”]
When we cultivate appreciation in our hearts, we find more joy in life. Remember your first car, your first apartment, or your first pet and how much joy these things brought you? The little things can bring us joy again if we reframe our perspectives and choose to receive them as gifts. Having to go to the DMV to renew your registration may become a satisfying experience if you can remember that most people in the world don’t have a car. You might not complain about your flight being delayed when you remember that before modern transportation, people had to ride around on horseback, and it would take them months to go across the country (and people would get dysentery and die). This blog would have taken me weeks to write because I failed cursive in third grade.
Cultivate your heart to be fully able to receive the joy of little things. Give thanks for what you receive, and return the favor when you can. When we truly appreciate what we’ve been given, our world will be filled with more joy, laughs, and carpet angels.