A memo on gratitude

By Joe Frank

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How do your shoes feel around your feet? You likely didn’t notice. This is due to sensory adaptation, which occurs when our brains stop noticing irrelevant stimuli. It can be helpful, as it allows our brains to only focus on so much at a time, though we often act in a similar way in our day-to-day lives. When we see a house we rarely ask who built it. We often do not ask who paved our roads. We worry about things we deem more important. The houses are there, so we forget that they haven’t always been there.

For instance, think of manhole covers. Near my home, there is a manhole cover with the date 1913, meaning that manhole cover was placed there 103 years ago. And just about everybody walks past that manhole cover every day because it is not pertinent. But a lot has happened since 1913. World War I had not yet started, and Fenway Park in Boston was only in its second season of operation. The high-five had yet to be introduced and sliced bread would not be invented for another 15 years.

Some of our infrastructure was built by people no longer here to use it. Their work outlives them and exists for our benefit.

But what’s the point? Why should we care about who built our homes or the history of manhole covers? After all, we do have other things to worry about.

There’s an answer, which is that our surroundings are constant reminders to be grateful for what we have because nobody achieves anything by themselves. We all have something to be grateful for.

Who built your house? Who paved your roads or built manhole covers? Who made the shoes that you can forget are around your feet and the jacket that keeps you warm? Thousands of people over the course of many years have contributed effort so each of us can live the lives we live. We have a society built by others and we contribute to it as well, so we did not make it here alone. There is not one person who hasn’t needed anybody for anything. We all have something for which to be grateful for. But that makes our lives even more remarkable. Humans came together to build a society, and we are lucky enough to take it for granted. For that privilege, we should be grateful.

Sometimes it feels like we are unfortunate and that everything is going the wrong way. We all have bad days. On those bad days, take a few deep breaths, take a few steps back from the problems at hand and look at the big picture. We all have so much for which to be grateful, whether it is the clothes on our backs or the opportunity for an education like the one offered at the University of Massachusetts. Take a look at the infrastructure that we share. There’s always something that we could be thankful for, whether we feel good, bad or somewhere in-between.

Joe Frank is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].