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Taking things for granted is one of the biggest – and most common – mistakes we make in our relationships. What can we do about it?
When was the last time I genuinely thanked my wife for doing the laundry, educating our children, making dinner, giving me good advice, dealing with the bank, editing my articles (she added that one)… the list is endless.
When was the last time I genuinely thanked God for my eyesight, living in Jerusalem, coffee, my children, my grandchildren, my car, hot water, the dryer, the Talmud… the list is endless.
And when was the last time I genuinely thanked God for being alive? Not just the perfunctory acknowledgment said first thing in the morning, but a deep-seated appreciation that's accompanied with goosebumps and tears in my eyes?
That happened three days ago when it hit me that I could have been shot. Eli Kaye, a 26-year-old South African immigrant, was murdered by an Arab terrorist in the Old City of Jerusalem. He was on his way to the Western Wall where he works as a tour guide to pray the morning services. He was walking through the Arab shuk when a Hamas gunman opened fire, killing Kaye and wounding four others. I was heartbroken.
I would have been at the site of the shooting had my son not woken up sick that morning.
One of the lightly wounded was Rabbi Zeev Katzenelnbogen, a 46-year-old father of eight. Zeev is an acquaintance of mine and on most mornings, as I walk into the Old City through the shuk, we pass each other and exchange greetings – right where he was shot. I was speechless when I found out that he was one of the wounded. I would have been at the site of the shooting had my son not woken up sick that morning, creating a 45-minute delay in my arrival time at the office.
Eli Kaye, of blessed memory
Until the shooting this past Sunday, I can't recall the last time I fully appreciated that God was giving me another day of life, that every moment is a gift to grab onto and to use, direct, infuse with purpose and meaning.
For reasons unknown to me, God orchestrated events and made sure I wasn't in the gunman's path on Sunday. All day I was filled with gratitude towards God just for being alive. My day was teeming with a greater sense of appreciation and urgency to use my time well.
But today, I'm already back on automatic pilot, taking things for granted. Instead of feeling grateful for being alive, I'm annoyed at the inconvenience of bypassing the shuk and taking a couple of extra minutes to get to my office.
Our default mode is to take everything good in our lives for granted and complain about everything else.
Being grateful doesn't just happen; it requires hard work. Our default mode is to take everything good in our lives for granted and complain about everything else.
Whether it's in our relationship with God, our spouse, or our friends, if we're not proactively working on being grateful, chances are we are slowly drifting apart.
We need to make the conscious effort to choose gratitude. And that requires penetrating your heart. We can say words of thanks (those who pray do it all the time), but we need to connect to what we are saying and feel it.
Judaism has instituted numerous blessings to recite throughout the day as a practical tool to stop, connect, and express thanks to God. It's not enough to just quickly say the words by rote; we need to slow down for a few seconds and be mindful, and appreciate the gift God is giving us.
So bottom line, here's what I'm going to try to do: At least once a day I will really concentrate while saying a blessing and try to connect to what I'm saying. It's a small start.
And I'm taking my wife out tonight, recommitting myself (guilty as charged) to weekly date night.
What are you going to do?
Please pray for the complete and speedy recovery of Ahron Yehuda ben Tova who was seriously wounded in this attack. My heartfelt condolences go out to the Kay family.