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Small Things We Take for Granted

February 13, 2012

Looking back, July 26, 1950 was a day of rebirth for me.

The Korean War started on June 25 of that year. On the morning of July 26, my mother summoned me to a back room used for storage. There she handed me a small sack, which I was to fill with some rice from the market and return home promptly. My brothers were kept in the house out of fear that they would be drafted. Having just turned 12 a couple weeks earlier, I was deemed old enough to be sent on an important errand.

I was just about to run down the curved stone path when I heard my mother’s urgent voice, “Dai Sil, come back. I forgot something.”  At that instant I would have reached the huge stairway to the street, had I continued.  Instead, I was back in the dark storeroom, standing by my mother and waiting to hear whatever it was she had forgotten. Just then, we heard a terrible sound–as if the sky were falling. Terror stricken, I grabbed my mother and we raced to the front of the house.

“Lie flat!” I heard my second brother’s voice, urgent and piercing. “We are being bombed. Everybody out to the yard and lie flat under the quilt.” Then he started hurling quilts. Trying to keep the rest of us safe, my brother was struck by shrapnel and was bleeding.

I set out, desperately trying to fetch a doctor for my brother, running through burning houses, around screaming human beings, and jumping over dead bodies. When I finally found a doctor, the entire night had passed and the new day was dawning. My brother survived, but a couple of my friends, with whom I had regularly played on that huge stairway, died there. On that day, I became a 12-year-old grown-up and realized that my mother’s urgent call back to the storage room had saved my life. Had it not been for that, I would have been at the very spot where two little bodies were found.

With wild pulses of life in the midst of death, I swore then that I would never take being alive for granted. It goes without saying that I have not always been faithful to this self-imposed oath. All the same, this moment of what I perceived to be my second life has stayed with me forever, popping up at the most unexpected junctures.

Then sometime in my life, I began to feel that an equally important resolution is not to take what we usually consider “small” things in our daily life for granted. Daily bread, for instance, is not something everyone has. Oh, there are too many things to list.

Let me tell you about just one of those daily activities. I never stand in the shower without feeling grateful for that water streaming down my body–hot in winter, cold in the summer. When I stick my hair under the shower, shampoo it, put both of my hands to rub evenly all through my thick hair and then let the water take away the foam, I remember the days when I washed my hair once a week, if that, with rain water. Just like I thought Don’s childhood on a farm was romantic, you might think washing your hair with rain water is romantic. It could be–but not really, if you have to resort to it due to water shortage.

After Don left, one of the things I strive for is to die a simple woman with gratitude in my heart. I am far from being that person, but I know this: I am going to try, and one sure way to reach that goal is not to take small things in life for granted. Taking a shower is a privilege, not something that’s just there for you.


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One Comment
  1. Kawaljit Maini permalink

    It is so true-we tend to forget and thank God for small blessings like these as well as the roof over our head and warm clothes but most important the effortless breath that passes in and out of our body.Just be connected with Him and be grateful for this awesome beautiful and glorious world He has given us -thank you.

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