Santa Rosa Fire 6: The Blessing of Small Things

I’m wearing an old and battered pair of glasses. They’re extremely precious to me.

Before the fire, eyeglasses were an expendable commodity. I ordered them in sets of three. That’s because I knew that no pair would last long. I would sit on them, drop them, or leave them in places I visited. Each year, I obliterated several pairs that way.

Since the fire, only one pair remains, the throwaway eyeglasses that happened to be clipped to the visor of the car that we escaped in. Suddenly, a thing that was of negligible value to me has become extremely valuable. Because of these scraped-up eyeglasses, I can see. I’m so grateful for that privilege. The fire has reordered my priorities.

Fingernail clippers. I’m on a trip to Vancouver, Canada, and my nails have grown too long. I always have a pair of clippers in my travel kit and one in a drawer in my bathroom. I’ve had that arrangement for so long it’s slipped below the level of consciousness. Now I’m missing my clippers. I make a mental note to buy some at the first drugstore I pass, but every day I forget, because it’s been a decade since I had clippers on my shopping list.

Every morning, when I pull my socks over my feet, I give thanks. Before the fire, I never gave a single conscious thought to any of thousands of times I picked up a sock. But losing all my socks in the fire, and being without socks for two days afterward, has made me mindful of the blessing of soft warm fuzzy socks.

Imagine if we lived our whole lives mindful of the blessing of small things. Imagine if appreciating the tiniest of items, from toothbrushes to spoons to headphones, was our routine approach to life.

I have resolved to live my life from here on out taking nothing for granted. Yesterday I walked down the sidewalk, giving thanks for each breath. For the crisp fall air entering my lungs. For the shoes on my feet. For the ability to walk. For the leaves falling from the trees. For the rain falling softly on my umbrella.

One of the many friends who’s resonated with these posts I’m writing about the fire sent this poem by the medieval Persian poet Rumi called "The Guest House." It reminds us that the disasters of our lives can bring blessings with them, as long as we surrender and give thanks.

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

My wish for you is that you’re able to see the problems in your life as “guides from the beyond,” summoning you to a consciously lived life. That you’re able to surrender and give thanks for the miracle of simply being alive each moment. That you appreciate each breath, and every small thing, in your life.

It took a firestorm in which I lost every material thing to wake me up to the preciousness of them all. My prayer for you is that it doesn’t take a disaster to remind you to savor the magic of each moment. That you wake up grateful, give thanks with every breath, and go to sleep each night bathed in the wonder of a life brilliantly lived.

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