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  • Karl Thunemann

Gratitude Comes in Dribs and Drabs

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

The day began almost well—it seemed ordinary yet touched with a certain brightness. At breakfast I received a text message from the fraud division of my credit card company, inquiring if I had authorized a specific charge—that very day, before breakfast—to an entity presented as a jumble of letters.

This guy doesn't look like me, but are we all that different?

All the text asked was that I answer yes or no. But wait, I thought, how did I know the text was valid, and not itself a fraud? So I called the customer service number, where an agent confirmed the text. He said the best solution was to cancel my card. They would FedEx a new one. This sounded fine, but I expressed regret that I would have to call a dozen or so entities to transfer my automated monthly payments to the new card. The agent said they could arrange that for me. (§)

I didn’t think to mention the spilled salsa. Later I wondered if its very lack of consequence attached meaning to this little mishap.

So I would be late for my first appointment, but already I felt as if I had averted disaster. And then traffic opened, and I was early to meet with my principal reader. She read the first few segments I had completed and expressed satisfaction. (She had questioned my first effort, saying it seemed impersonal. I had already had reservations about it, having come to wonder if it might be regarded as extended throat-clearing.)  After reading the new entries, my reader opened her computer and we looked for a good vehicle to share this memoir with readers. We had a productive session, with only the slightest tinge of the contentiousness that sometimes marks our friendship.

Then I was off to see one of my chiropractors, who gave me an adjustment that enabled me to walk with less pain than I had known in three weeks.

Next up came an appointment with my counselor. I had time to grab a sandwich and eat it in the deep shade outside the counselor’s office, reading and making notes. I meant to pick up a tidy rollup sandwich at Trader Joe’s but forgot that no left turns were allowed at a critical intersection. So I settled for something at Taco Time. In the shade, I zipped down the windows and spread out my lunch on the passenger’s seat, almost immediately capsizing a little container of salsa. I decided to eat first, and then attempt to clean up. I noticed the spill had not reached the seat itself but was confined to the battered book bag I had rigged as a placemat. Realizing I had escaped a trip to an auto detailer (really, no one has ever accused me of being fastidious), I began to feel as if I really were dwelling in gratitude. As tedious as cleaning up might be, it even smacked of being joyful! (To be joyful amid tedium must be a mark of enlightenment!)

My counselor and I had a lively talk about dwelling in gratitude.  I didn’t think to mention the spilled salsa. Later I wondered if its very lack of consequence attached meaning to this little mishap. And it further occurred to me: If this wish could transform an ordinary bright day, why not the next ordinary dull day?

(§) They didn’t actually catch all of them and it took weeks to sort it all out. But I’m glad they got me started!


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