What We Take for Granted
I've been largely absent from the blog for the last several months. Those of you who know me recognize that I've been focused on healing in the wake of a stroke I suffered in my spinal cord early in the morning of December 5. It came out of the blue; I had no warning. I simply woke up with pain in my legs and 40 minutes later I could neither stand nor walk. It hit me hard; I prided myself on how fit I was for my age. My Fitbit goal was 15,000 steps a day, and I usually came close or surpassed it. Despite an original diagnosis that the extensive damage I sustained was irreversible (in other words, I would never walk again), God has honored the prayers of the many who have taken my condition before Him, and, with a lot of hard work and the guidance and care of my physicians, nurses, CNAs, and physical therapists (my heroes!), I am now walking with a walker or a cane. I move quite slowly, especially when I'm using my cane, but I'm grateful that I can be upright and moving, and that the wheelchair is gone. I'm also very thankful that the stroke, unlike the more common kind that impacts its victims brain, did not affect me cognitively. I also never lost the use of my arms or hands--another thing for which I'm very grateful.
During my recovery (which is not yet over!), I've constantly realized that I took so many things for granted BTS (before the stroke). Our retirement home is 20 minutes from two beaches, and I loved to walk miles on them. BTS I never dreamed that a walk I took last November might be my last of that kind. BTS I used to hop in my car to run errands, have lunch out, or take my grandchildren on an outing. Now I can't drive (although I'm hoping I will be able to in the next year or so). BTS I often flew to see my children and grandchildren who lived in other states. I walked as much as I could during layovers between flights, often logging as many miles on a flying day as I did at home. Now I have to request a wheelchair to help me make my connections. So many things seem to be in the past: working in my flower beds, taking a bike ride, hiking with my husband on our vacations (an integral part of every vacation we've had), sitting on the floor to play with my grandchildren, painting furniture (a new hobby for me; I have several pieces awaiting a paint brush), and even wearing flip flops (evidently we use micro muscles in our feet to help hold these summer go-to accessories on our feet). I could go on ad nauseam.
At first I berated myself. How could I have failed to recognize that the many things I enjoyed could be taken from me in an instant? "If only I'd known, I would have valued these things more," I fumed inwardly. But then I began to ask myself it there were things I still took for granted; things I needed to value more right now. And the answer was a resounding YES.
- All those medical personnel I mentioned above? They all are part of the health care system I have access to. Yes, as current events demonstrate, it's far from perfect, but I have seen so much progress because it was available to me. Yet a 2015 World Health Organization/World Bank report showed that "400 million people do not have access to essential health services."
- Each time I turn on a faucet, I expect that clean water will flow from it. Each time I flush my toilet, I expect that it will work. "Today," however, "1 in 10 people [globally] lack access to safe water; 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet."
- When I open my refrigerator or kitchen cabinets I know I'll find food I can eat. It may not be exactly what I'm hungry for, but Gary can make a run to the store and remedy that. Currently, however, 1 in 9 people in the world suffer chronic undernourishment. In the developing world, they probably have little access to food and certainly lack the resources to pay for it; in the developed world, many of the poor live in food "desserts," neighborhoods that lack grocery stores.
- Our grandchildren are getting ready to return to school (or start school for the first time!). We take for granted that a free education is available to children here. That's not so in the developing world where 121 million children ages 6-15 are not in school.
You get the idea--so much of what makes up my life in 21st-century America is unavailable to many of the world's poorest. Yet, as we write about in Suffer the Children, there are ways each of us can help change these statistics. I intend to be more mindful of the things I take for granted as we work together to make a difference for those in need.