When I joined my shul, 7 years ago, Steve, a man who's about the same age as my father would be if he were still alive, recognized a fellow smart-ass and rabble-rouser. We became fast friends and have conspired together in all sorts of mischief and punnery.
He's ill now. He's also a marvel. He assiduously cultivates an image of curmudgeonly crankiness. He'd kill me for mentioning it, but it's an act. He's an old softie.
Despite a number of illnesses and personal setbacks, he remains a jokester and a seemingly tireless volunteer. I happen to know for a fact that he is now the opposite of tireless. But he ain't going gently into that dark night and his unabashed glee at puncturing sacred cows and baiting the pompous and the humorless stands unabated.
He posted this article to our shul's listserv yesterday. Until today, I thought Teri Garr's memoir, Speedbumps, was the definitive work on life with a pernicious disability. But Steve's offered up a better one, authored by Professor Stephen Baron.
Here it is:
Things We Take for Granted
by Prof. Stephen Baron
Even those suffering from multiple sclerosis (and other "ailments") fall into the trap of taking things for granted. Yes, things can be tough but....
This morning I sat outside for half an hour. What a joy! Sitting outside was a particular treat for me, since as someone who is quadriplegic and hence not able to move, I don't have the chance of getting out very much. Being an outdoors person, though, this was especially hard on me.
Just seeing people driving up and down the street made me think how very much we take for granted. My fellow multiple sclerosis sufferers know this all too well. We're about the last people who need to be reminded about not taking things for granted. We've watched helplessly as we have lost one of our physical abilities after another.
How many times have we said, "I used to be able to do that?" referring to something that me used to do without a second thought. Whether or not we can put the past behind us determines if we have an eye on the future or the past -- that is, whether we're ready to face tomorrow. Thinking about the future teaches us to be ready to adapt to changes that come our way. Every MS sufferer can testify that adapting to changes in our condition is a constant in our lives.
Then there are those things that even MS sufferers take for granted, starting from the most basic thing. Don't we take it for granted that the sun will come up tomorrow morning? Have you ever stopped to wonder why? Once you've thought about it, have you ever considered giving thanks for that?
Don't we all assume that we'll wake up tomorrow morning? Just ask anyone in a hospital or nursing home about waking up tomorrow. Isn't assuming we will wake up tomorrow a little presumptuous of us? After all, who are we to warrant such a gift? A little humility is in order.
Similarly, for several years, whenever I heard of a car accident (I commuted 45 miles to my college job in upstate New York, through many winter snowstorms, for some 20 years) or a 'random' shooting, I wondered, 'Why them and not me? What did I do to deserve being spared?'
Several years ago, my rabbi said that we should be saying 100 blessings a day. At the time, I thought he was crazy. Sure, I said a blessing before eating or drinking, but 100 a day? That's ridiculous.
Today, I ask, is that all? That doesn't even begin to cover it! If we thought about it for even a second, we would realize there are thousands if not millions of things we should be thankful for. From everything from our bodily functions to our personal circumstances (family, job, etc.) and the country we live in , I realize there are more things to be grateful for than we could ever count.