Appreciating the small gifts in life


“If you have nothing for which to be thankful, make up your mind that there’s something wrong with you.”

-from Quips and Quotes, compiled by E.C. McKenzie

Where were you when the lights went out?

On Thursday afternoon, Aug. 14, I was worrying over my daughter who was in her fourth day of a 103-degree fever. I was waiting for the return call from our doctor to find out the results of her blood test, drawn earlier that day, when the lights and fans flickered, corrected themselves, and then went out.

Realizing that the doctor’s office might be closing soon, I decided to place a call to them. It was then that I found out our phone lines were also dead.

It’s everywhere. I told the kids I was driving to the doctor’s office, and upon arriving there, I realized that this particular power outage wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill local snafu, but one of a huge magnitude.

The generator-powered television in the doctor’s office lobby carried news of the frantic situation from New York, to Boston, Detroit, and Cleveland. Traffic was snarled due to no working traffic lights, further complicated by pedestrians rushing out of office buildings on to crowded city streets.

After waiting seemingly forever to talk to our doctor, part of the time in the dark as generators struggled to keep up with the demand, the sinking realization that this could be a long, hot haul began to dawn on me. It made me alarmingly aware of just how dependent we have become on electricity.

Inconclusive tests. The blood tests were rather inconclusive, raising more questions than answers, so after meeting with the doctor, he said to bring my daughter back in the next day. A slight ear inflammation may be the root of her fever, but it seemed unlikely. If they were unable to open their office, I should take her to the hospital if she was still feverish.

Cooling down. Upon arriving home, our house was hotter than a firecracker, and my daughter was sitting outside in the swimming pool to cool down. Smart girl.

The good news was that our phone lines were working and no one in my family was stuck in an elevator or darkened subway. The thought of those unfortunate people in such harrowing situations made me shudder.

I began worrying about water. We had some water in jugs, but not nearly enough to keep our dogs watered adequately. I gathered up empty jugs and headed out in search of luckier souls with electricity to run a well pump.

After a stop for food in the neighboring town that hadn’t been impacted by the outage, I stopped by my niece Jody’s house to check on her and her two little boys. I have never been so happy to see a tiny doorbell light shining, to hear the hum of the garage freezer running! We stepped inside to cool air on that sweltering day and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I joked with Jody that we just might move in.

Feeling lucky. A couple of hours later, Caroline and I headed for home with a few jugs of Jody’s well water, feeling mighty lucky to have it. As we neared our home, we noticed with cautionary hope a few lights shining here and there.

Before we left home, I had flipped the candle light on in our kitchen window, and as we drove nearer, I was certain I saw that tiny light shining. I was right! We stepped in to ceiling fans twirling, a most welcome sight.

Working phone lines, humming electricity, and water flowing from faucets… all the things we take so for granted every single day, suddenly became miraculous again.

And oh, so appreciated!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.