Brian and I are back from India. And while it wasn’t my choice to return so precipitously, canceling plans to visit Rajasthan and the Himalayas and the Taj Mahal, I still felt an upswell of gratitude upon seeing home as the plane descended.
India was a big lifestyle change:
- Living in student-style accommodation, one room with spare furnishings
- Sleeping on a three-inch mattress without box spring
- Negotiating for transportation instead of driving ourselves
- Dealing with communication issues, in person and remotely, including regular Internet outages
- Ordering and planning for water delivery to avoid water-borne illness
- Eating spicy food at every meal
- Getting sick frequently, despite precautions
Brian’s schedule, working from our apartment for a California startup, proved to be one of the most challenging situations. Because we lived in a studio, it was virtually impossible for him to sleep past my morning alarm after staying up for calls until 1 or 2am. He tried to nap during the day but his work schedule didn’t always allow it and he was continually exhausted. I credit the work situation with doing him in, but he’d probably say it was the bed itself.
That’s not to say that India has to be difficult. My colleague, a true expat, has a 3-bedroom apartment, a cook, a driver, filtered drinking water—many creature comforts that enable him to live comfortably away from his native New York.
But for us, India was a challenge, and a surprise. After all, this wasn’t our first time living abroad or in the developing world. We spent two months in Thailand in 2011. I spent a month in Ghana in 2009 and several months in the Czech Republic during college. Together, we’ve enjoyed month-plus stays in Australia and New Zealand. But, the past and its challenges aren’t what this post is about.
On to the Gratitude
What I wanted to share with you is how blessed so many of us are to have such simple things. For example, if you have:
- A safe and comfortable place to sleep
- Toilet and shower
- Trash removal services
- Adequate, safe food
- Clean drinking water
then you are better off than literally billions of people living today.
The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements estimates that more than one billion people live without adequate housing, and more than 100 million people are homeless. At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day (yes, including shelter). 780 million people live without clean drinking water, and 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation. And that’s to say nothing about access to education, doctors, and reliable transportation.
So, today I’d like to express deepest thanks for all of my blessings, not the least of which are:
- Food that is plentiful and doesn’t make me sick
- A home that has all the creature comforts
- A bed that makes me never want to leave home (hello, Tempurpedic!)
- My car, which gets me to appointments reliably, and frees me to visit friends and see the natural beauty of California on demand
- Freedom to see a good doctor, with whom we can communicate easily
Returning from India, my biggest moments of gratitude have involved water. I am so, so thankful:
- To be able to fill my water bottle from the kitchen tap whenever I want
- To have access to hot, high-pressure water in my shower (a truly heavenly experience once you’ve gone without)
- To be able to get shower water in my mouth, accidentally or on purpose, and not get sick
Such simple and delightful things!
What are you most thankful for today? Where are your areas of deepest gratitude?
P.S. For more about global access to water, sanitation, and shelter, here is a report from the Rockefeller Foundation.