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Glancing out a second-story window the other morning I happened to see two young girls and a boy, siblings no doubt, walking by with two older people I assumed were their grandparents.
People frequently congregate in our front yard because we have a Little Free Library, and indeed the boy and his grandmother stopped to look at books to take home. The girls were busy waving bubble wands, those handheld plastic sticks with loops at one end that produce bubbles from watery soap. The girls seemed totally absorbed in sending bubbles aloft and chasing after them.
The older girl, who couldn’t have been more than eight, was especially good at it. She would run after and recapture the bubbles in her wand and send them on a second and even a third time.
It was a small scene, totally unexceptional. And yet it seemed so much more, somehow miraculous and thrilling, life itself unfolding in all its splendor.
I know that doesn’t make much sense. It has been just over two weeks since I underwent major surgery and it has left me, unexpectedly, with so much gratitude for things large and small, like modern medicine and little kids playing.
Surgery can do that to you. It’s an ego-smasher, a vanity crasher: it humbles and leaves you with more compassion for pain and suffering and the willingness – happiness even – to take pleasure in the common scenes of everyday life. Nothing can be more beautiful, one realizes, than children laughing.
Meanwhile in Ukraine millions of people are fleeing bombs and soldiers. Countless buildings, factories and homes have been destroyed. Thousands have died.
I watched last week as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky told members of Congress: “Just like anyone else in the United States, I remember your national memorial in Rushmore, the faces of your prominent presidents, those who laid the foundation of the United States of America as it is today: democracy, independence, freedom, and care for everyone, for every person, for everyone who works diligently, who lives honestly, who respects the law.”
Three words jumped out at me: democracy, independence, freedom.
Why those three? Because we have them – democracy, independence and freedom. We have them and enjoy them and take them for granted. Hundreds of millions of people in other countries do not.
Gratitude for things large, like democracy, independence and freedom. And gratitude for things small, like children chasing soap bubbles around the yard.