60 Gifts I’m Grateful for on my 60th Birthday (Part 1)

As many of you know, I’ve been on a sabbatical coinciding with my 60th birthday, which is today (May the Fourth Be With You!). This has been a rich, rich time of looking back (with gratitude), looking within (for greater self-understanding), looking up and around (for guidance), and looking ahead (with anticipation).
A while back, I got an idea for a new practice: each year, to write a list of things I’m grateful for … one for each year. The idea was to do this spontaneously, stream-of-consciousness. (For my very-very spiritual friends, I intentionally decided not to put God, faith, etc., first, but to see where these elements of gratitude came up in my list spontaneously.)
Here’s my list, just as it flowed. I’ll post ten per day.
1. The gift of life. I’ve been given 21,900 days, 525,600 hours, and 3,120 weeks. How many breaths? How many heartbeats? How many mornings to awaken, and nights to sleep? Each day, each breath, each moment is a great gift. Thanks be to God.
2. The gift of good health. I survived three illnesses that, had I been born 100 years ago, would have killed me (appendicitis, 2 simultaneous tick-borne diseases that affected my liver and heart, and melanoma), not to count all the other ways I could have kicked the bucket early. The fact that at 60 I feel absolutely great … Thanks be to God.
3. The gift of clean air to breathe. I’ve spent time in cities where the smog was thick, and I am so grateful that each morning I can step outside and take a deep breath of clean air. Thanks be to God.
4. Clean water to drink … I realize that 750+ million people don’t, and this is a great blessing which makes me want to help everyone everywhere have access to clean, safe drinking water.
5. Great food to eat … I remember my mom’s home cooking and all the great Italian meals Grace and I have shared. I also think of my favorite kinds of cuisine … Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Cambodian, Indian, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern … And then there’s my dietary nemesis: tortilla chips and fire roasted salsa. I think of wonderful meals I’ve enjoyed around the world, from Costa Rica to Burundi, from Sweden to New Zealand.
6. Sanitation and Health Care … to have a toilet is a blessing 2.5 million people don’t have. And to have access to good medical and dental care … I am blessed indeed.
7. Good Faith: I was born into a Christian family, and I became a committed Christian by choice as well as by heritage … but I eventually learned that for some people, their faith does them more harm than good. So I am grateful that I’ve been guided into an understanding of God and faith that have been a doorway into greater life and freedom rather than a passage into a prison cell, and I’m grateful that my only options weren’t fundamentalism or faithlessness.
8. Homes: I think back on all the homes I’ve lived in. As a child and teenager, I lived in Olean, NY; Rockford, IL; Caroga Lake and Johnstown, NY; Kensington, MD; and Rockville, MD … and I have wonderful memories of each home. When I got married, Grace and I rented and apartment in College Park, MD; then bought our first home in Riverdale, MD, then moved to another place in Riverdale, and then moved to Laurel, and then here to Marco Island, FL. When 60 million people in the world are refugees or displaced, I think of what a blessing it is simply to be safe and at home.
9. Neighbors and Neighborhoods: My parents taught me to appreciate the value of neighbors and I think about how my neighborhoods have shaped me … from gaining a love of nature in Olean, NY, to the amazing educational opportunities of growing up in Maryland with its great schools, and now, to living between the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico. I am thankful for neighborhoods of racial, religious, and ethnic diversity … and for folks who watch out for each other.
10. My dad. He died two years ago, leaving me a huge fulness rather than emptiness … He filled me with encouragement, curiosity, energy, a strong work ethic, strict (in the best sense) morals, a deep faith, and a restless hunger for adventure and experience. Even his quirks and weaknesses brought great blessing to me. I can’t say enough about how grateful I am for him; I only hope I will leave a similar fulness in my kids’ lives.
(More tomorrow)