By Ron Culberson. With a master’s degree in social work, Ron Culberson spent the first part of his career working in a large hospice organization as a clinical social worker, middle manager, and senior leader. As a speaker, humorist, and author of "Do it Well. Make it Fun.The Key to Success in Life, Death, and Almost Everything in Between", he has delivered more than 1,000 presentations to associations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporations. His mission is to change the workplace culture so that organizations are more productive and staff are more content. He was also the 2012-2013 president of the National Speakers Association and is a recognized expert on the benefits of humor and laughter.
Have you ever considered how much we take for granted every day? Most of us don’t have to worry about basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. When we do, we become acutely aware of their value. However, if we look beyond these basics, there are many important conveniences that we may not even realize we’re overlooking.
Take the fork, for example. This is an amazing device. It’s a spear, a scoop, and a knife—all in one. I don’t know if the fork was ever nominated for a Nobel Prize in the category of Culinary Engineering but I surely would have voted for it.
As utensils go, knives have been around for as long as people have needed to stab something. And throughout early history, our hands were the most common tool to accompany the knife. Then, along came the fork and everything changed. We now have a reasonably safe alternative to the knife and a more convenient way to combine mashed potatoes and peas.
And yet, when was the last time you paused to appreciate all of the forks in your life? Typically, we only realize their value when we’ve run out of clean forks and are forced to use a leftover set of chopsticks we got from the Chinese takeout. Yes, the everyday fork silently serves us without needing accolades or remuneration.
And what about shoes? Now, there’s something we usually overlook (literally). As far back as 7000 BC, shoes have been a necessity. Back then, they were actually made of sagebrush bark because people needed protection for their feet. Today, our shoes are made of rubber, leather, canvas, or nylon and they feel a lot more comfortable than sagebrush bark (although I have no firsthand experience to make this claim).
For me, shoes are critical. I live in the woods. I would never leave my house without a sturdy pair of shoes on. If I walked around my property barefooted, I’d spend my nights treating snake bites and pulling thorns from my toes. My shoes are very useful and now that I think about it, I even have different shoes for different activities such as walking, mowing, hiking, and flip flopping. But do I consider these benefits as I’m walking around the house or through the woods? Not really. Just like many routine conveniences, my shoes are too common to be noticed. And they’re not alone.
The other day, I went looking for a light switch to replace one that no longer worked. I pulled out a box of household supplies from under the workbench in my garage and there, neatly organized, were my spare switches. I then proceeded to install the wrong switch thus having to uninstall it and reinstall the correct one because, when it comes to home repair, that’s how I roll.
In hindsight, while I was frustrated with my installation incompetence, I realized that instead of having my stuff strewn all over the house and throughout the garage, I have supplies, mementos, and old documents stored neatly in boxes. What a marvel the box is. It organizes our hoarding needs, it fits neatly on a shelf, and we can stack them up to the ceiling if we wish. But how often do we stop to think about the magnificence of a simple, nondescript box? Rarely.
Lastly, I’d like for you to take a look out the nearest window. What do you see? I see hundreds of trees. But I also see birds, blue sky, clouds, and butterflies. When I lived in the suburbs, I didn’t really notice the beauty of nature because my desk faced my neighbor’s fence. But now that I live in the country, I see extraordinary scenery every day. Yet, I haven’t really appreciated the utility of the window which allows me to bring that beauty of the outside world into my inside world. It’s quite an amazing development. I mean, can you imagine how hard it would be to drive a car without windows? There would be no need to “look both ways.” So, next time you want to see through a wall, consider that it’s a window that allows you to do so.
I think we should remind ourselves that we are very accustomed to ordinariness and because of that, we take a lot for granted. We are lucky to have forks, shoes, boxes, and windows in our lives and even luckier that they are so readily available to us. But we should also strive to recognize and appreciate the wonderful value these and other common items provide for us.
Being truly aware in life means being attentive to details. If you’re like me, you may need a nudge now and again to remind you to pay better attention. Otherwise, we will all be guilty of taking our lives for granted.
So, the next time you’re eating a meal using your trusty and loyal fork, take a look though the nearest window to get a view of the world around you. If you are able, explore this world in your comfortable shoes and try to notice everything. If you find something interesting, and worth keeping, take it with you and place it in a box for safekeeping. This will always be your reminder to not take things for granted.
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