Learn to Appreciate: Embracing What We Take for Granted

In our everyday lives, it’s easy to overlook the treasures that surround us – the little everyday luxuries we often take for granted. 

The warmth of our morning coffee or tea, the nice breakfast on our dining table, the chores our spouse has done for us, the fresh fruits in the fridge, the well-arranged dinner with the nutrition we need after a whole day’s work or even a clean and organized home; life is filled with items we usually do not notice until they’re no longer there. It’s called a sort of blindness to familiarity in Chinese. Our daily lives are filled with those little things, the routines, many of which we hardly give a second thought to. We only start to remember them when we step out of our comfort zones and face moments of unexpected change. Only then will we realize how much we had to rely on them.

Today, I would like to discover the journey of finding things we take for granted. Usually, they are the things we overlook : aspects of life that deserve a moment of gratitude. It’s time to feel appreciation in our hearts.

Story 1

I have Bible study every Thursday evening. Before closing the study, our pastor always asks us to pray for each other. One evening, he asked a member called Phil, “What should we pray for you?” His response struck me at that moment. 

He said his wife was about to leave on a two-week international business trip, leaving him in charge of the household. He suddenly needed to take lots of responsibility that week from his wife. He said he needed prayer for him to have a peaceful week of so many responsibilities, including preparing breakfast, dropping off his daughter at school, grocery shopping, making sure his daughter has clean clothes to wear for school, preparing meals, feeding, and walking the dog; meanwhile, keeping the home somewhat organized. He was a bit worried about so many responsibilities in those looming two weeks. 

Those tasks are such ordinary tasks for lots of working wives, and the lovely working wives must laugh out loud at this prayer request as they may seem nothing special as they have to get used to it. But it became a huge pressure to Phil, or maybe to lots of men who haven’t done this before. He started to appreciate all the things that his wife did day in and day out.

Story 2

Then there’s the story of my own son John, who recently started living in a school dorm by himself. After the initial discovery of independence and excitement, he soon met with the practical realities of his daily life. 

I had taught him how to have the basic skills before sending him off to the residence school. He was careless at that moment and kind of ignorant. He said everything was so easy, and he would go to YouTube when he needed anything.

One night, he had lots of dirty clothing in the laundry basket, and he realized he needed to wash it all; otherwise, he would run out of clean clothes and socks. Then he forgot what I told him about how to use the washing machine as the laundry was a task he’d never taken at home, and he called it “so easy, every man on the earth can handle…” However, he called me a few times before doing the laundry to make sure he would do it right the first time. After we used Facetime, I instructed him on the buttons on the washing machine and which one to use. He put all the dirty clothes in. But, suddenly, he realized he forgot to put in the detergent, after the machine was running for 20 mins.

Then, after he used the dryer machine, he noticed lots of his clothes were still very damp and were definitely not ready to wear the next day. Then he had to do the drying twice, and then he could have dry clothes to wear the next day.

That night, my boy said he was missing home. He never noticed how his dirty clothes transformed into clean, fragrant pieces, folded or hung in his closet in a certain order.

As I mentioned above, there are lots of little everyday luxuries we often take for granted in our lives. I just wanted to list a few things we easily take for granted, but we need to look at them in a different way:

  • The daily routine

In our daily lives, there are many routines that have been falling into the blindness of familiarity, but they are beautiful. I watched a movie about a working mom and a stay-at-home dad. The working mom was not happy with her husband after a couple of months, as she said she was the breadwinner for the family and she paid all the bills. She said her husband had such an easy life and stayed at home, just looking after their two young toddlers. The dad, who used to be an engineer, was irritated and asked, ”How about we switch for one month?”

Then, in that month, the dad worked at a contractor job, and the mom worked on all the chores for the family. She soon felt the daily routines drove her crazy, and it was not as easy as it  seemed. She said she could manage the sales team, meet all the sales goals, and have everything under control at work. But she could not have her babies under control. She wanted to sleep after a long day doing all kinds of babysitting and baby entertaining, housework, and cooking, but her baby needed her at midnight. She wanted to have a 20-minute yoga class online, but her babies did not let her. They crawled and interrupted her from time to time, and she could not finish one single posture.

It’s the same argument for lots of Asian families, especially for my Chinese immigrant friends in Vancouver. In most cases, the dads are the breadwinners, so they are the astronauts flying in and out from Vancouver; they confidently tell their wives that they have only one SIMPLE task, which is to raise and bring up their child or children; don’t worry about money. They take all the money-related burden on their shoulders. Sounds like the only hero in the family, huh?

However, the SIMPLE task is not simple. I would be very interested in seeing how the dad switches 1 month’s life with the mom and see what the picture looks like. After that, I would confidently say that the moms are the hidden, anonymous heroes in the family. Lots of moms sacrificed their careers in exchange for taking the “SIMPLE” task. 

  • Family and family relationship

I had mentioned in my other blogs about missing my grandma from my dad’s family and my grandparents from my mom’s family.

I used to have a calendar that never expired, which was their birthdays. I also had a habit of buying small gifts as a sweet thought for them as a granddaughter. I used to call them when I was on the road or traveling. Their phones were always reachable, and their voices would be my treat at that time. 

When I traveled in LA, I usually needed to drive at least 1 hour from the airport to the hotel. My grandma would always be one of the people I made a phone call to, as she was the one who had the patience to talk with me for 30 minutes or even up to 1 hour. She always enjoyed all my stories, and she had an open mind, so we chatted well every time.

However, when I was on the road again, I could not call her as part of my long road trip as she passed away and was not there anymore.

When I missed my grandpa, I could not call him or send him a gift to express that I missed him. 

So, don’t take for granted that our loved ones are there for us forever. Do enjoy the family reunions. If we cannot visit them and see them face-to-face, try to make phone calls and video calls whenever possible. Of course, face-to-face visits are highly recommended, as they truly will love to see us or even hold our hands or pat our shoulders in person.

  • The comfort of our home

Don’t take for granted the comfort of your home. Who makes the home comfortable? We need to show our appreciation. 

A comfortable home has pleasant settings for our lives. We have clean, soft bed sheets that have fragrant smells so we can have a nice sleep. Our fridge is well-stocked with the dairy, fruits, and the meals we need. Our kitchen cabinet has the daily snacks we like to please us when we are hunting for some treats. The carpet is clean. The home is clean and tidy. 

They are not there from nowhere; the home is well maintained because of our spouse/partner. 

One time, I had to pick up something for my manager from his apartment because he forgot something important for his client, as he was away that week. I used the key from his driver and stepped into his home, and I was shocked because I saw every step. I made a footprint in the dirt. The floor seemed not to have been mopped for a while. 

Much later, I mentioned it to him, and he said he was too busy at that time and had moved to the city and away from his family. It was his wife who maintained the tidiness for the family. 

  • The advance of modern technology

We have already gotten used to the internet, just like the water from the faucet. We pick up our phone and can reach out to anyone in the world on our contact list.

We should appreciate the smart human beings who made that happen. When I first immigrated to Vancouver, there were no tools such as Zoom meetings or WeChat. I had to purchase international call features from internet phone companies. My family in China had to wait for me to call them as international phone calls were too expensive in 2010.

Later, we got tools such as WhatsApp, Line, and Wechat. Then, Chinese people had the convenience and luxury of connecting with anyone on our WeChat contact list. We communicate via audio chats, video chats, or group chats as a family whenever we want to at no cost. 

So, with that said, do we realize how many routines are there but have been ignored? They are only remembered when we temporarily or permanently live without them, and then we learn to value their presence. Those stories I give here are just gentle nudges reminding us to cherish the small moments in our everyday lives and learn to be grateful for the unnoticed convenience we have taken for granted for so long. 

We may have overlooked them for so long. However, lives are filled with lots of ordinary moments; lives are not live dramas, but we need to be reminded from time to time not to take things as granted and have a grateful heart. 

As lots of times, people feel that life becomes boring with the small little things, we need to have a lens to find joy in the familiar, have a lens of appreciation, and take nothing for granted. With that we can certainly unlock the secret to a more contented, fulfilled, and richer life.

Remember, every day is a canvas, and how to choose to paint it with gratitude or indifference is entirely in our hands. So, let’s use our discovery lines to find beauty in everyday life.