I haven’t blogged recently because I’ve been busy with a new job, starting school again (both as a student and teacher) and traveling. But I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to say, and basically it’s my own version of genuinely trying to live each day with enjoyment and appreciation, because we never know what’s around the corner.

Since May I’ve been in a happy cocoon of transition: from my business to a new career direction, a short sabbatical filled with travel and new experiences, appreciation for all the greenery this summer due to the rains that landed on my lawn and garden and not in my basement. But for several close friends and acquaintances, it has been a summer of bad news and loss. Two friends lost grandchildren (a preemie and a 2-year old); two others have been diagnosed with breast cancer and undergone double mastectomies. As a what-can-I-do-to-make-it-better overfunctioner, I just wanted to help them and ease their pain. Yet I’m fully aware that there’s little any of us can do to alleviate another’s suffering other than to listen, pray, be available and wait for time to work its healing magic.

But there’s a version of survivor’s guilt at work here, too. Why them and not me? Or as we say in Catholicism, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” And one way I’ve found to handle guilt is to be grateful for the good stuff, large and small, that we take for granted every day.

Here’s where the green part comes in. Every hot shower should make us stop and think. The plentiful and varied food supply we enjoy and expect is something to consider. Traffic congestion drives everyone nuts. But do we stop to realize the incredible infrastructure of roads and highways we enjoy in this country? And how generally safe and convenient it is to get from here to there?

When our cell phone doesn’t get a signal, we moan about the service. But come on: you are standing in the middle of nowhere holding a tiny device that isn’t wired to anything and enables you to talk to people, download information, send text messages and who knows what else depending on the model you splurged on. So from time to time, it doesn’t get a signal. Big deal. Are we grateful for the times when it does and we can check in on our kids, or tell our parents we arrived safely, or call for help in an emergency?

Insufficient budget support for public transportation will weaken our system, but stop for a moment to appreciate what we already have in place and how great it would be if we were truly committed to public transportation as a means of reducing auto traffic? If only public transportation weren’t viewed as something for “those people,” but the best and most economical way to get people where they need to go, so that our region thrives, our local economy stays strong, and we keep the air cleaner. In the meantime, Oak Parkers can hop on the Green Line and be in the Loop in 15 minutes for $2.00, or $1.75 (for now) with a Chicago Card. Compare that to owning, insuring and maintaining a car, and the price of parking downtown. But do we say, “thank you Lord for the L?” Doubtful.

When power was out due to the storms in August, people were inconvenienced, for sure. But we have such a coordinated response effort that nearly everyone was back up and running within hours. The folks at ComEd take a lot of grief for the outages that are the results of acts of God; but their jobs are demanding and dangerous, and they generally restore service in short order. And with the flip of a switch, we just take electricity for granted.

I could go on and on: the number of flights that land safely every day at O’Hare; the medical miracles and true breakthroughs that enable people to live longer than previous generations; the sheer normalcy of our everyday lives that rely on a highly complex and coordinated infrastructure and everyone doing their part to make it work.

The late rocker Warren Zevon (Werewolves of London) lived hard and died young. But before he did, he wrote and performed a beautifully reflective album about life and death, called “The Wind.” And he also said something absurdly profound: “Enjoy every sandwich,” which was his way of telling the rest of us every moment counts.

We gripe about so many things, but sometimes we just have to pause and be grateful for the all the big and little things we take for granted. I say, enjoy every shower. (And consider a water-conserving shower head!)

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