Dressed in a striped shirt and trousers, the man being interviewed spoke in a low voice as he described his life in prison.
"I wake up time after time through the night and look up at the bare bulb outside my cell," he said. "The lights are always on and there's always noise. What I wouldn't give for a dark, quiet night."
His words made me think of the soothing darkness, the peace and quiet I take for granted when I go to bed. What must it be like never to experience that restful setting?
I've been a lifelong fan of the uplifting exercise of counting my blessings. And after listening to the prisoner's description of life in his world, I realized there are many blessings that fall into the take-for-granted category, things we've simply come to expect that others are not so fortunate to enjoy.
While thinking over these basic blessings, I remembered the single mother I met during the years my son, Tim, and I volunteered at the Mayville Food Pantry.
The young woman had two small daughters. Every day, she left them with relatives and went to work at two different low-paying jobs. On the days she was allowed to visit the food pantry, she took the girls by the hand and walked from their small home on the outskirts of the village to St. Paul's Episcopal Church where the pantry was housed.
After picking up the two bags of food for her family, she made the trek back home with the girls holding on to her skirt.
In our family, when we make our routine trip to the grocery, list in hand, we gather all the items we feel we'll need for the coming week. Back home, as we put the cans and packages away in the pantry and refrigerator, we give little thought to what a basic blessing this is. The fact that thousands of families, especially in the current economy, are not so fortunate never crosses our minds. Once again, the abundance of food is something we simply take for granted.
I was discussing the take-it-for-granted tendency recently with hubby George. He thought about it for a minute, then began describing the lessons in gratitude he had learned when he was part of the U.S. "police action" in Korea in the early 1950s.
He recalled the many times he went into the showers only to have the water cut off before he was finished. And the two weeks he spent with thousands of other GIs on a troop transport, constantly trying to balance on the rolling deck of the ship while battling seasickness.
From a quiet, peaceful night's sleep to a constant supply of clean hot and cold water, from pantries full of food and the stable earth beneath our feet, we're blessed with countless things that make our lives comfortable and complete.
I've decided I need to be more aware of the many things I take for granted that others would consider luxuries. You might want to join me in this count-your-blessings exercise.