The Cherished Familiar
People tend to take things for granted. Americans in particular exhibit an orientation to life that can become so ingrained that it provides the lens through which we understand ourselves and evaluate others. If we fail to widen our focus, we risk becoming ethnocentric, a trait that can be positive if it generates in-group solidarity, but ethnocentricity, unfortunately, often leads to judgment and prejudice.
As we dive deeply into summer, we may well be only on the cusp of emerging from the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re waiting to see if the “new normal” will stick and present a fresh path through which we’ll navigate life. My hunch is that our reality will combine the familiar, as we relax back into old comforts, mixed with heightened senses of self-protection and care for others.
I hope we’ll learn from what we’ve experienced and—at the very least—be moved to adopt a renewed nous of appreciation. In an internet search of things Americans take for granted the most—the reality of which is compounded when those surveyed have not traveled outside of the country—I was shocked to see how closely the results illustrated our recent experiences. Five of the top twenty-five are:
• Grocery stores stocked with food
• Toilet paper and clean bathrooms
• The college experience
• A job
• Televised sporting events.
Eerie, right? My oldest daughter—who has traveled to China and experienced toilet paper and disposable diapers being seen as treasured commodities, and flushing toilets as atypical—refers to everyday inconveniences like losing the garage-door opener, a faulty remote-starter for your car, or an erratic robot vacuum as “First-World problems.” How true!
To that list—what I’ll strive not to take for granted—include three: the ability to shop sans face mask to catch the side view of an upturned grin in response to my smile when I make eye contact with someone. Teachers! I relish the idea of evading futile reasoning with nine- and eleven-year-olds over how my old-school way of math will garner the same answer as the Common Core method. God bless teachers! And: the joy of entering a Mexican restaurant and being greeted by colorful art and welcoming smiles before being seated across from my husband to enjoy a margarita, chips, and salsa. That’s my version of “familiar.”