Don’t Take Oxygen for Granted
I can get frustrated with little things. It bothers me when someone pulls out in front of me and then drives way too slow when I’m already late for an appointment. How about when every traffic light seems to turn red just as you approach it, like the whole world is conspiring to annoy you.
Do you have a list of pet peeves? A list of things that you can’t stand? I do, and the list is long. It’s easy for me to focus on the things that are wrong and to fall into a trap of disappointment and anger.
However, I have another list. This list is also long and it’s tucked away deep in my heart. It’s my list of blessings and I use it to combat the negative circumstances in my life. It’s impossible for me to remain grumpy when I pull out this list. You know what is at the top of the list? “I’m alive.”
When I was visiting my former high school cross-country coach, Garry Courter, in the hospital after open heart surgery, I remember the nurse that took care of him while I was visiting. I remember more about what she said than anything else. “I need you to blow hard into this tube.” She explained as Coach Courter struggled to catch his breath, exhausted while recovering from having his entire chest cracked open and his heart handled by the surgeon less than 24 hours before.
“Why is this necessary?” Coach Courter asked.
“Healthy people only use two thirds of their lung capacity. We never take deep breaths. When you’re recovering from a traumatic event, like heart surgery, you use your lungs even less. We need to get you breathing fully to prevent water settling in your lungs and you catching pneumonia as a result.” She smiled and then forced him to take a deep breath and blow into the tube.
I found myself taking deep breaths and filling my lungs as the nurse encouraged Coach Courter to blow into that small plastic tube. I don’t know why, but what she said stuck with me. Ever since, I remind myself to take long, deep breaths and allow my lungs to fully expand. I savor the oxygen as it enters my body and provides energy and life to my muscles and brain. I smile, reflect on what is good in my life, and thank God that I’m alive and get back to my work.
I think it’s weird that most of us only use two thirds of our lung capacity. It speaks to how we approach our lives as well. We live a life of short breaths as we scramble and stumble throughout the day, not really appreciating the little things, the precious things.
We never notice oxygen, until it’s unavailable to us. Oxygen, to me, is like the blessings we refuse to acknowledge. We don’t allow ourselves, like the use of our lungs, to fully enjoy and embrace them. We are rarely satisfied and content on what we have and allow ourselves to slow down just enough to acknowledge that we have everything we could ever want right in front of us.
Someday, like oxygen, our blessings will disappear and we will wish that we enjoyed them more. So what are you waiting for? Count your blessings, take a deep breath, and thank God that you’re alive!