My Non-Toothache

This morning of all mornings I have been given the gift of gratitude, hovever incomplete. I couldn’t help but notice the incredible blessing in all of the mundane aspects of my morning routine. A comfortable bed, warm shower, soft towels, good clothes that fit, a job to go to that will support my family, fresh ground coffee, nutritious cereal with fresh toasted pecans for breakfast. You get the idea. It is at that level — the level of mundane particulars I usually take for granted — that the Gospel has been whispering to me this morning.

There have been times in my life when I have been without all of these things. There is a vast number people who live without any realistic hope, who do not even dream, of having such blessings. I did not wake up cold or hungry, nor did I wake up in fear for my livelihood, or in dread of the drudgery of a dead-end job, or in fear for my life. There are people for whom that is a reality. It may be so for me one day. But not today, and for that I am grateful.

But I am also tinged with anxiety. How am I to be worthy of all this treasure? I am in a position that I take for granted a lot of things that other people struggle for. How can I make the resources God has invested in me bear interest? Soft towels, a life free from constant worry, a stable job — all this frees my mind and spirit up for some thing, some task. Am I on the right track?

Wendell Berry expresses this sentiment better and more succinctly:

Prayer After Eating

I have taken in the light
that quickened eye and leaf.
May my brain be bright with praise
of what I eat, in the brief blaze
of motion and of thought.
May I be worthy of my meat.

Indeed. I pray that I be made worthy of my meat. I pray that I can bear fruit.

Anxiety aside, mostly I am just grateful.

Thich Nhat Hanh said in one of his Dharma talks rings particularly true. He said that while you have a bad toothache all you can think about is getting rid of the pain. When the pain finally goes away you are happy. The mere absence of the pain makes you happy, and you momentarily forget all your cares, enjoying the present moment of your “non-toothache.” That is the trick, Hanh says, to enjoy in every moment your “non-toothache.”

This morning I am quite happy with my “Non-Toothache.”

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