Even With No Running Water, Gratitude Can Flow

Even though newspapers are generally filled with negative news, it is always a pleasure to read about gratitude. I read this over at The Montreal Gazette – it is an article by Susan Schwartz.

Even with no running water, gratitude can flow

It was the country -and things happen.

In this case, what happened is that on Saturday morning, not 12 hours after we’d arrived, the water supply to the house suddenly stopped.

The pump, thought to be the problem, was replaced by Monday morning -super fast by country standards: it’s not as if anyone had a water pump in his back pocket.

We were up at summer camp for nine days: my beloved was the camp doct
or; my role was to look out at the lake, daydream and make a serious dent in the pile of books I’d brought along.

We made do with a cold water supply jerry-rigged with a garden hose from a nearby reservoir to the house, which was the only place affected. Mainly, we used the water to refill the toilet tank; to shower, we walked down the hill a few hundred yards to a small cinder block building with more than enough hot water.

I groused a bit: I’m accustomed to water coming out of the faucet when the tap is turned on, after all, and to showering without having to leave the building. But I groused only a little because this was the country and, truth be told, I hardly cared: we ate in the dining hall with everyone else, so I didn’t have to worry about cooking or washing dishes.

The air was fresh and pure, the starry skies a nightly miracle. Apart from the joyful noise of children at play, the only sounds we heard were of birds; the mournful, eerie call of the loon at dusk was my favorite.

Replacing the pump, it turned out, did not restore the water supply. Hmm. Then before anyone could come up with a Plan B, a fierce storm blew in Monday evening when we were all in the dining hall: it knocked over a tree which, in turn, took down a power line supplying the camp.

So now the house had no electricity. But the sky cleared almost immediately – and so we read, as we usually did, in the screened-in porch, our backs to the lake to catch the last of the light against the pages of our books. In the last days of June, that took us to just after 9. We brushed our teeth, using water in the kettle we’d boiled earlier in the day, and went to bed. I fell asleep almost instantly.

Had I known the power would go out, I would have boiled more water, of course, and saved it in bowls on the counter. But isn’t that always the way? We never know when the power will go out.

The electricity was restored the following afternoon and I was thrilled at the possibility of a hot cup of tea or
the CBC community network or a hot shower, even if having it meant walking down the hill. I liked being able to read until I, and not the heavens, decided it was time to stop. Who cared about the water now?

A Jewish tale about a poor man and a rabbi comes to mind. “Rabbi,” the poor man cried: “It is so crowded in the house, with my wife and six children and me all in the same room: there is hardly space to breathe!

“What should I do?”

“I know you keep a goat behind your house,” the rabbi replied. “Put the goat inside with you.”

The man was surprised, but he dared not ignore the rabbi’s advice. Within a week, the goat had nibbled away at most of the shabby furniture and relieved itself all over the place. There was no spot for the man even to sit. He went to the rabbi again -desperate by now.

“Take the goat out of the house,” the rabbi instructed him. A week later the two encountered each other in the street. “Rabbi,” the man said. “Things are so much better. Now that the go
at is out, the house feels more spacious than a palace!”

When we left for home on Sunday, we were a bit sad, the way we always are to bid farewell to camp -a place where we feel so happy and at peace. There was still no water.

Things happen in the city, too, as I learned when I arrived back in town to the news that my MasterCard had been compromised; someone in Germany had used it to play online poker – although I didn’t know this yet when I ran in to the Provigo on Monkland Ave. to grab some groceries and the cashier informed me, with more relish than I thought was called for, that the card had been declined.

The truth is, of course, that we hardly ever truly appreciate what we have when we have it. And we rarely acknowledge, to ourselves or to anyone else, that things could almost certainly be worse than they are.

If you care to express your gratitude to the author, Susan, she can be reached at sschwartz@thegazette.canwest.com

Be Well.
The Gratitude Guru

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