Three times a day, in our daily prayers, we praise God with the words "For Your kindness has never ended, we will always place our hope in You."
God exhibits His kindness to us in many ways. Sometimes we are too preoccupied to see it, and we need a gentle reminder of how He watches over us at all times. And even though, as we see nowadays, God's eternal providence can seem overshadowed by the evil machinations of mankind, it is important to remember that our free choice to do good or evil is also a kindness.
What do we have to be grateful for? Everyone has his/her own list. Here's some of mine, from A-to-Z:
Aches - Nobody likes to get them, but they are the truest form of kindness. Otherwise, how would I know that my tooth was getting rotten, or that I played too many games of racket ball, or that the stress at the office was beginning to takes it toll and it's time to slow down and rethink priorities? Without aches, we might do irreparable damage to our bodies and not even know it.
Beauty - Whether it's the beauty of art, music, literature, a landscape, or another's face, these are gifts that intrinsically bring joy to the heart. God didn't have to arrange the world in an aesthetically pleasing way, but He did.
Children - My greatest pleasure and greatest pain in life is my children. They also allow me to see myself as I truly am -- 40 years too late.
Dew - For those who have small gardens and don't have the time or inclination to take out the hose every night to keep them watered, God made dew. As water vapor condenses in the air each night, grass, plants and cars are covered by morning with a thin layer of water. It automatically irrigates the ground, just one way of God keeping the world going when we're too busy to do it ourselves.
Electricity - This awesomely powerful force runs cities, controls our physical bodies, and is the basis of universal energy. Electricity can't be seen, but we know it's there because we can see its effects. Perhaps it's a metaphor for God.
Fire – Like so much else in life, fire can be used for good or for evil. It heats my home, cooks my meals, runs my car, and lights up the night. It also destroys cities, devours forests and snuffs out lives. Fire teaches that we are constantly given the choice how to use our many resources. We must always strive to follow God's example to build up, not break down.
Grandchildren - The reward that God gives you for not killing your kids during the "terrible two's" and later as teenagers, is grandchildren.
Home - Home is the place that provides warmth, love, contentment, family, friends and security. We should not take the security and stability of a home for granted, as history can attest. How fortunate we are.
Income Tax - I'm sure there's some kindness here, but it escapes me at the moment.
Justice - The strict meaning of justice is that the evildoer must be punished and the injured party compensated. Yet most of us, when subjected to justice, simply reply, "Your honor, it wasn't my fault." There are always extenuating circumstances that we'd want the judge to consider. Fortunately, God tempers his judgment with “mercy,” without which, none would be able to survive.
Knowledge - As children, we were told not to touch the hot oven. On one level, we understood this advice. But it wasn't until you actually touched the oven that you totally "knew" what your mother meant. Knowledge represents the highest level of understanding -- the physical, internal realization that something is true. Likewise, this is the level at which we strive to know God.
Life - Your money or your life? Your freedom or your life? It's important to know what you're willing to die for, in order to know what you should be living for. Without this clarity, we could wind up wasting life on the pursuit of vanities.
Mosquitoes - The greatest kindness would have been if Noah had swatted the two of them when he had the chance, so we wouldn't have them buzzing in our ears at 3 o'clock in the morning. But just as God has been kind to us, he has also been kind to the mosquito. Did you know that by the time you feel the sting of its bite, it's already long gone? You see, the pointed stinger is like a stack of ice cream cones, collapsing as they go in (so you don't feel them), then opening and flattening as the stinger is pulled out. This prevents us from squishing the buggers when they sting us, and it also allows the specie to survive another day.
Nothingness - It is as difficult to envision nothingness as it is to understand what lies beyond the edge of the universe. Some believe that upon death, we go to nothingness. This is a cold, sobering thought that renders life far more meaningless. Judaism believes that a life of spiritual pleasure awaits us in the World to Come. As difficult as it is to picture nothingness, it's a lot more difficult to accept that we are here on earth for nothing.
Obstacles - Obstacles that stand in the way of progress are perhaps our biggest benefits. Overcoming them leads to self-actualization and the highest level of esteem. If we can succeed despite a nagging spouse, an abusive boss, or a physical handicap -- we are much better off for having tried.
Pleasure - There are many different types of pleasure -- physical, emotional, creative and spiritual. Some choose only those pleasures that are easily attained (like pizza). But as anyone training for an Olympic medal knows, the greater the pain, the greater the reward. And for humanity, the highest pleasure is to attach oneself to the Source of all pleasure.
Questions – Some people think that it's important to have all the answers. But in truth, it may be even more important to have good questions. A question creates a space inside of us that needs to be filled. This “lack” opens us up to new ideas and new information. Without the empty space of a question, we might never be motivated to grow.
Reproduction – Raising children is a true challenge, often involving tremendous pain and self-sacrifice. To ensure human continuity, God gave us a bonus and made reproduction a pleasure.
Shabbat - For those who are workaholics, or have teenagers at home, it seems that the phone never stops ringing. Shabbat gives a respite, a day of peace and tranquility, a joyous family occasion, 52 times a year.
Tuna – A delicious food, so versatile that you can eat it in a hero sandwich, splash it on a salad, or bake it gently in the oven. And for those take-along emergencies, you can even enjoy it straight out of the can.
In fact, I believe I hold the world record for eating the most tuna fish sandwiches in a lifetime!
USA - One of the miracles of creation. America stands for the highest principles of goodness and justice (even though it may not always get it right), and has provided hope and refuge for millions of hungry, tired immigrants. It shines the beacon of freedom for an entire world.
Variety - Imagine eating oatmeal every day. A closet of clothes that are all white. A garden of flowers, all red. Everyone driving the same kind of car, living in an identical house, and playing the same board game every night (probably Monopoly). Imagine one kind of animal in the zoo, one instrument in the orchestra, and all faces looking alike. The world might have been that way, but thank God, there's variety.
Woman - Webster's definition ("female homo-sapien") falls a bit short of capturing the full essence of a woman. She is emotional, instinctive, sensitive, insightful, sensual, tender, loving, caring, critical, tireless and nurturing. And as a married man, I'd better appreciate “woman” or I'm in big trouble.
X-Rays - The shorter the wavelength, the more that energy waves are able to pierce solid objects, as radio waves do. X-rays have a high frequency and short wavelength, giving them the ability to expose filament and leave an image. X-rays are another great form of kindness when you have sprains, broken bones and cavities (see ACHES above).
You - Ours is a world of beauty, kindness, wonder, perfection, symmetry and unity. It was all placed here for you to enjoy and to grow. A world without you would be a much darker place. Enjoy it all, and enjoy the special beauty of your place in it.
Zygote - The beginning of you!