It's back! I've been focusing heavily on World War I, but I've set my WWI thoughts away for the moment and I'm ready to go back to writing about one of my other loves, words.
We are currently in a season where words of gratitude get thrown around frequently. On Monday I asked a group of students what it means to be thankful. My favorite answer came from a second-grader who said, "Being thankful means that if someone gives you gross carrots on your plate, you don't say, 'Ewwww. This is gross.' You just eat them." While perhaps she was describing good manners and she certainly described the behavior of a thankful spirit, I wouldn't necessarily define this as thankfulness. So often when talking about being thankful, we list the big things in our life like our family, friends, pets, house, and so on.
This November I've been thinking a great deal about being thankful for more than just the big things. More times than I can count I have talked to young people who wonder what they have to be thankful for. They see that they have the same things as their friends and they've never had to do without so they take the things in their life for granted. It is easy to condemn this attitude, but I find myself forgetting how amazing my life is sometimes too.
As I've read and listened to my widely varied books, I've noticed that there is so much more to the world than I ever realized. Wicked Plants, The End of Night, and my most recent read Consider the Fork have really shaken up my view of thankfulness.
Today's Word: Commonplace
Three syllables. Pronounced [kom-uhn-pleys] Adjective. Defined by dictionary.com as ordinary; undistinguished or uninteresting; without individuality. Look around you. How many things do you see that stand out as unusual? If you are living a typical day more than likely you are surrounded by things that are commonplace. Phones, bags, electric lights, toilets, and concrete. They are so commonplace that we forget just how remarkable they are. With the average smartphone, you can access a wealth of knowledge never collected at any other time in human history. The materials that make up all types of bags allow us to look stylish (or not) and carry what we need. We can carry stuff in cross-body bags, backpacks, shoulder bags, briefcases, the list is never-ending. Our bags can be insulated to keep food fresh. Our pizza delivery people put our pizza in a special bag to keep it warm. 100 years ago less than 35% of the US population had electricity. They cooked on wood-burning stoves and used oil lamps to light their homes. 1/3 of the earth's population still don't have access to proper toilets. The concrete that paves our roads and allows for our buildings to be large and strong has only been around for less than 200 years.
We see these things so often they become commonplace and we forget to be thankful for them. Consider the Fork was about the history of cooking utensils and implements. There was some minutia, but overall I was impressed with how much we have and how much effort and time has gone into creating the kitchens we know today. Many years ago when I was teaching preschool I brought some books about the pilgrims and how they lived. When we sat down to list things they were thankful for the kids listed things like mommy, daddy, grandparents, toys, house, etc. One kid looked very serious and said, "Toilets." Clearly, he had noticed that was missing from Plymouth and he was thankful he could enjoy the benefits of modern plumbing. But really, when's the last time you were thankful for a toilet. We complain about cleaning them and we chastise our family members who leave the seat up, but have any of you caught dysentery lately? No? Spend much time cleaning out your chamber pot? No? Well, then be thankful you have a toilet and a sewage system.
As we rest in this season of gratitude, don't forget to take time to be thankful for all the little things. The simple things. The commonplace.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."