Last night I went to a friends’ house for a dinner party.
It being Melbourne, and it being winter, it was cold. She has a wood fire, so someone went off to light it. Thirty minutes later there were calls of ‘does anyone know how to light a fire?’ and I went and took over tending the smouldering coals. I got that baby cranking in no time, with an adjustment of the air flow and adding some well-placed sticks.As I sat watching the mesmerizing flames take hold, I thought about how handy a skill it is to be able to light a fire.
When I was growing up, my family home had wood fired hot water.
Even though we lived in rural Western Australia, it was still old-school. And yes, it meant that any time we wanted more than a kettle-full of hot water we had to light a fire and wait half an hour. And yes, this was very annoying. (It also meant I learned the handy skill of chopping wood with an axe, but that’s a different story).
If they had tried to tell me at the time…
I was reflecting last night on how grateful I felt, that I had this skill of fire-lighting, and laughed to myself imagining how I would have reacted if, while grumbling about having to light the fire, my parents had said ‘you’ll be grateful for this one day!’ And, thinking back on it, I wouldn’t choose to do it again. It was annoying and time consuming, and I would prefer to be able to jump in the shower as soon as I arrive home from the beach freezing cold. But I can also see the benefit I got from the experience.
Which I thought was a great example of what gratitude means (to me).
To express gratitude for something doesn’t need to mean that you would choose the same thing over, if you were given a choice. It doesn’t need to mean you’re stoked that what happened, happened. It just means that whether the experience was enjoyable or not, you can see that there was some outcome that was meaningful for you. Sometimes it’s really easy to find gratitude for things we perceive as pleasant experiences, and it can be harder to be grateful for things that are less pleasant.