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The Things We Take For Granted – The Blessings We Miss

One of the unfortunate realities of life is that it often requires loosing something, before we truly come to appreciate its importance and value. I was recently reminded of this truth while serving on our diocesan mission trip to Bolivia. It is often those things or people that we tend to take for granted that we miss the most, when for whatever reason they are no longer there.

Take water for instance, we go to the faucet, turn it on and out flows fresh, clean water. We don’t think twice about it. We expect it, but tragically more times then not, we fail to appreciate what a blessing and gift it is, one which much of the world doesn’t have. I first came to that realization 26 years ago while living in the Philippines, where I didn’t dare drink the water off the Base for fear of catching some intestinal bug. Until then, I always took clean water for granted.

The recent mission trip to Bolivia was a reminder of the blessing that once again I had started to take for granted. Not only could our mission team not drink the tap water, but we became all too aware of the other uses of water that we tend to take for granted – such things as water for cooking, brushing your teeth, showers, toilets, etc…While staying on Isla Del Sol, our only water supply, besides for bottled water that we brought with us, had to be transported in plastic five gallon jugs strapped on the back of a burrow and carried on an hour journey up the mountain to our hostel. This was the water that would be used for cooking, bathing, and for our bucket activated “flush” toilet, among other things – water hand carried at great cost and effort.

Speaking of toilets, our modern bathrooms and sewer systems are such a blessing – one that most of us don’t think about. It was never really anything I gave much thought to – that is until my experience in Third-world nations. In Bolivia, count yourself fortunate if you find a toilet with a seat on it, toilet paper and water in the bucket to activate the toilet. I’ll spare you the details of the sewer system’s inability to handle toilet paper. Upon arriving back in the United States from Bolivia, I did something I have never done before. I went up to the janitor at the Airport and thanked him for the clean bathrooms. I’m pretty sure he thought I was nuts, but I now know what a blessing the service he provides is.

Numerous other events and experiences occurred during our trip that helped to reinforce this whole notion of blessings, many of which go unrecognized and or unappreciated, until they are taken from us. We complain about the high cost of heating our homes, and often times justifiably so, but at least we have heat and a home to heat. It was winter in Bolivia while we were there. Not a single building throughout our whole stay was heated. At dinner time we found ourselves bundled up in our coats and hats, huddled around the table eating. We had coats. Many of the locals didn’t.

Breathing is typically something most of us don’t give any thought to, we just do it automatically. At 14,000 feet up in the mountains, however, breathing takes on a whole new dimension. Regardless of how deep you breathe, it feels like your lungs are starving for oxygen. Walking and other normal day to day physical activity becomes labored. In La Paz, not only was the air thin, but it was often polluted with the foul smell of auto exhaust and other odors. Those people, who struggle to breathe, know what a blessing and gift each breath is.

Generally we take our health for granted, at least those of us who are healthy. We may hope and pray for good health, but do we truly appreciate and give thanks to God for it when we have it? It only took one wrong twist while shoveling stones in Bolivia, to bring me to my knees. One second I was fine, the next second I was in excruciating pain. Every move sent sharp pains throughout my body. Straitening up was torturous. Sleeping became almost impossible. How sad it is that we often have to get sick or injured before we realize and appreciate how good it feels to be well and what a blessing our health is.

Work or employment is another area that we often fail to fully appreciate. It is easy to get caught up in criticizing that which we don’t like, and fail to realize how blessed most of us are to have “respectable” jobs that provide a living. That’s not the case everywhere. While in Bolivia, we worked on the streets of La Paz with “Shoe-shiners,” men and women, boys and girls most of whom are on their own and trying to make a living shining shoes for 50 centavos per pair. That is equivalent to approx. seven cents in U.S. currency. Embarrassed by what they see as a menial job, and not wanting to be recognized, several of them wear ski masks while working. While many in society would walk by, looking down upon them, to include themselves, after working with them, I discovered what unfortunately they often failed to see in themselves, under each mask was a special creation of God, many of whom were fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, loved and redeemed by our Lord. How many of us hide behind masks, failing to recognize and appreciate the masterpiece God has created in us?

The last aspect of life I would like to touch upon, that we tragically too often take for granted, is our faith. Faith is a wonderful precious gift, given to us by God, himself. The very fact that we know anything about God is because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. The promise of salvation and eternal life is a gift from God, made possible by His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is a gift intended to be shared. We live in a country whose very foundation is built upon religious freedom, and yet how often do we fail to share our faith with those who are in desperate need of hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ? One of the things that touched me most about my trip to Uganda was the incredible faith of the people – a country in which some people are still being martyred for their faith. Do we have to loose our religious freedoms, before we come to appreciate what a gift and opportunity God has given us? I hope and pray that is not the case.

In closing, I invite each of us to take a close look at our lives. Who or what have we been taking for granted? What blessings has God given us that we fail to see and appreciate? Through His grace, may we open our eyes and our hearts, giving thanks to God for all life’s blessings and gifts.

+ Bishop Bill

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