When I was a child (somewhere between five and ten years of age), I remember thinking how amazingly lucky I was to have been born in the United States. After all, it wasn’t like everyone got to live in what I now think of as “the first world.” I could have been born in Africa, or the Soviet Union, or China, or any of those other places I saw on the news where it looked like people had very tough lives. Instead, I was born in the United States of America, where life was easy and food was plentiful.
As I matured, that sense of gratitude has only deepened. At some point in my studies of history (and I’ve studied a lot of history between an undergraduate degree in classics and my rabbinic training) I realized that what we think of as barely acceptable housing conditions in this country represent far greater comfort than was available even to royalty in past ages. In the winter, we are adequately warm most of the time (even those of us who keep the thermostat at 65 degrees). But if you look at the stone castles found in various places across Europe (which we often visit in the summertime) and imagine what they must have been like in the winter, the misery of life in those conditions becomes evident relatively quickly.
To be alive, here and now, is one of the greatest strokes of luck anyone could ask for. And yet, there are moments when I feel like I can’t catch a break. When, after 1.75 years of chronic un-/underemployment, I feel like it has to be my turn at some point. When it feels like the world is conspiring against me, and, to quote the song, “if I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.”
When I’m feeling like that, I remind myself of how fortunate I truly am. And then, I admit that regardless of how fortunate I may be in the larger picture, it still feels hard to live life in some moments.