A lesson in gratitude

Counting life's blessings

CindyCommNov image

One of my all-time favorite books is a Yiddish folktale that my mom first read to me when I was a little girl. The story, It Could Always Be Worse , by author Margot Zemach, chronicles a poor shtetl man who thinks life can't get any harder than living in a tiny one-room hut with his wife and many children. His home has become so crowded, noisy, and chaotic that he can't take it anymore, so he consults the village rabbi for advice.

To the man's surprise, the rabbi advises him to gradually bring more creatures into his home each day--first chickens, a rooster, and a goose; then a goat; and finally a cow.

The animals live with the man and his family in their hut for several days, and then when the man thinks things can't get any crazier, the rabbi finally tells him to release the animals. That night, sans animals, the man finds his home roomy, quiet, and peaceful.

The story teaches us to appreciate the wonderful blessings in our lives--even when life is hard--and not to take the good for granted. It Could Always Be Worse is a parable that I have thought about often throughout my life. But lately, coming out of the pandemic, even more so.

Not long ago, my husband and I attended a comedy concert in a large Chicago venue. While we had watched a lot of standup comedy on TV during the pandemic, this was our first live show post-pandemic. I looked around at the sea of people in the audience, masked and unmasked, erupting in laughter in unison.

After so much time cooped up in our homes, I had forgotten how fun and even therapeutic it is to be out, away from our daily environment, with a crowd of strangers sharing in a creative experience.

This month, the magazine spotlights art and artists in our community--from musicians to actors to painters and others-all around us in the Chicago area. We had first considered highlighting live arts a few years ago, but with so many theaters dark and performance venues shut down, we would have had nothing to report on.

But now life is bustling again and so is the calendar of live performances across our great city of Chicago and beyond. Now that most of us have finally come out of hibernation and isolation, we're starting to remember how good we had it in the "old days," back when the word "Corona" was merely the name of a light beer.

This appreciation extends far beyond the arts--to so many facets of our lives. At Rosh Hashanah services this year, the rabbi offered us a chance to reflect on the moment, and then led us in the Shehecheyanu --the blessing Jews say to mark a new experience or special occasion. After more than two years removed from our in-person synagogue services, so many of us are brimming with appreciation for finding our way back to the sanctuary.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, now feels like the right time to mark this new beginning with the Shehecheyanu, to release the proverbial chickens and goats from our home, and to appreciate the blessings we no longer take for granted.

 


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