Stop Taking The Small Things for Granted

My mom continues to recover from the aneurysm, surgery, and subsequent stroke that has kept her hospitalized for the last 65 days. Last week we transferred her to an in-patient rehabilitation center that specializes in working with patients with brain and spinal cord injuries.

It didn’t take long to hear stories from fellow patient’s families who were there watching their loved ones fight to regain their physical and mental abilities. Many patients are young (the center’s average patient age is 34), and it is sad to see so many people with their entire lives ahead of them cut down by an injury or illness. It is also inspiring to watch the human spirit overcome amazing difficulties to restore health to those often not given much of a chance.

The entire experience of nearly losing my mom at 53 years young, watching her fight to regain things we take for granted (sitting up, swallowing, talking, etc.), and now meeting dozens of other people going through similar challenges, has had a profound effect on me. It is rare that a day goes by that I don’t stop to reflect on the things I have to be thankful for.

I know it is a couple weeks early to give thanks for all the blessing in my life, but I felt like sharing them with you now. Some are related to finances, some are not. All are things I wish we would all do a better job of appreciating, while putting aside our own petty differences and problems.

Be thankful for the roof over your head. I don’t care if that roof is rented, mortgaged, or paid for, if it keeps you dry and warm at night you ought to be thankful to have it.  It might not be the roof you want, or you might want a bigger roof, but at least it provides some shelter against the elements. If you are not grateful for the roof over your head, drive around the downtown area of any major city in the country and look at the lines filling up for shelters, or those making “homes” from boxes and beds of newspapers.

I’m grateful for my health. Sure, I could stand to lose a few pounds. My shoulder still gives me trouble two years after rotator cuff surgery, and my back aches occasionally from an old football injury. But I am able to walk, talk, work, care for myself, and care for those I love. Our health is definitely something we take for granted until we lose it.

I am blessed to have an income. I have to wonder if the people I’m encountering at the rehabilitation center will ever return to their careers. In fact, my mom’s own ability to return to her previous job remains in question. Without an emergency fund in place, and/or a short-term disability policy, those who are unable to return to their jobs are basically without an income for months until a long-term disability plan kicks in.  Even then, they only earn a fraction of what they did prior to their injury or illness. This can be financially devastating to a family, and is a good reminder to shop a short-term disability plan and beef up your emergency fund, just in case.

I am lucky to have a window in my office. I worked six years in a cube farm before taking my current job, and spent the first two years at my current employer working in a storage area with no view to speak of. At least I could get up and walk to the front door,and I could see the outside world during my commute.  My mom spent 45 days in neurological ICU, and 17 days in a “step-down” unit before being transported by ambulance to the rehabilitation hospital. Her exit from the back of the ambulance was the first time she saw sunshine in 62 days. Take a minute and look out the window nearest you. Have an appreciation for the things you see–birds, squirrels, grass, blue sky, rain, sunshine, flowers, trees, etc.

I am most thankful for my wife and children. While my mom was in neuro-ICU she was unable to see her grandkids for over six weeks. My kids talked to or saw their “Grandma” every single day of their lives, and keeping them apart for six weeks was heartbreaking. Fortunately, Mom doesn’t remember much of that time, but I do, and I remember my kids crying each night as I returned home from the hospital and told them they still couldn’t go see Grandma. It is a reminder that we should never again take for granted time spent with our loved ones.

Finally, I am grateful for all of you. If you would have told me a year ago that I would start a blog, and have the opportunity to share my daily thoughts with 4,000 subscribers (and thousands of visitors), I would have never believed it. It has been a blast (virtually) meeting so many wonderful people who share a similar philosophy (and a few that don’t), and I’m grateful for the opportunity to interact with you on a daily basis. I hope you get half the enjoyment from reading this blog as I get writing it. My only regret is that I didn’t start it earlier.

We spend a lot of time here at Frugal Dad discussing sacrifices, proudly sharing the things we’ve given up to lead more frugal lives.  But every now and then we should all stop and reflect on the things that we do have. I’d encourage you to take a moment today to list a few things you are most thankful for, and feel free to share them with us in the comments below.