WHAT IS THERE TO APPRECIATE IN LIFE
There is an old worn out cliché that says “Different folks, different strokes.” Appreciating life depends therefore on where the person is coming from. For a student, it is the completion of a school course. To a prisoner, his day of release. For a government worker, a salary increase and promotion. To a worker in a private firm, security of tenure. For a housewife, a stable domestic life. To children, a continuous supply of toys. So on and so forth.
On a bigger plane, life is appreciated in the context of public safety, on the prevailing peace and order, on the imposition of laws, on the proper application of social justice. This of course belongs to the realm of governance—that harmonious blending of government, private and citizen services towards a common goal. This area aptly is based on the leadership quality of the community and could hardly be contained by individual requirements. This is a collective choice.
On a personal note though, that which animates appreciation in life is basically a question of norms, a question of requirements in achieving happiness. Happiness at times is viewed in the prism of contentment, on basic satisfaction of a specific consideration. By and large, a healthy body promotes a happy disposition for living. Although, oftentimes it is ignored and relegated to a blind corner, health is nonetheless the apex of a person in achieving something worthy for himself. It is a pity that health at times is sacrificed to extract token and temporary happiness by immersing in vices like substance and drug abuse, consuming processed and toxic foods, idling time. Every unwholesome activity is savored until the costs are manifested through ailment and life threatening diseases. The happiness derived in these concerns became the prerequisite for a disillusioned and an unhealthy life. Here, the lesson on appreciating life becomes amplified and repentance or realization brought to the fore.
I recalled an instance in the past when I would pepper my father to buy me a bike. Every kid in the neighborhood had one (and at that time, there were no surpluses yet unlike now where every street corner one finds an ukay-ukay stall featuring every known commodity from furniture to toys, from cars to bikes). My father was an ordinary government worker then and could not as yet provide us such advantage. Peeved by my audacity in pleading for a bicycle, my father finally gave word.
“Ok Ven, dress up and I will take you a place where you can appreciate life better with or without a bike.” He said.
“Yeheyyy!” I was excited to hear father finally responding to my youthful demands even if he made certain comments that would douse my enthusiasm in the event he fails in buying me a bike. For me to get his attention was enough, I still hope I could convince him in the process. I had no idea then what working hard and saving money mean.
We boarded a bus and we alighted near the bus stop adjacent to a public hospital. I was a springy 9 year old tot at that time.
“Ven, let’s go. Let us check first a friend who is confined here before we proceed.” My father seriously instructed.
We went through the admission side of the hospital and went through a bend leading to the emergency room. The air had stench of alcohol, people in white uniforms were almost running side to side, and those in green duster had white gauge on their snouts. I had no idea who was a doctor and who was not.
There were several stretchers and steel beds, all brimming with helpless people, some in bandage, some bloodied, some motionless. It was a terrible sight. I had not seen anything like that. Those people milling along the corridors were crying, some looking like desperate, just like the desperation I pictured myself to be while prodding my father earlier on.
My father whispered. “Ven, have you seen that fellow wrapped in blanket, the face very youthful but grimacing pain?”
“Yes father. He must be hurting.”
“Look at those around him. They are probably members of his family.”
“They must be rich. Look at the them, they have jewelries and their dress must be expensive. Look at the bags and those that they possess, it must be costly.”
“They also look wealthy because they are clean.”
“Now, listen Ven. These are people who can afford to buy several bicycles for their kids, especially for the one on the bed wrapped in blanket. What do you think would the one on the bed wish for, a bike or his health?”
I smiled at the question which father posed to me. “Naturally, his health because he cannot enjoy a bicycle ride if he is that sick.”
“Precisely my son. Who is better? You, a healthy boy without a bike or that wealthy boy who can afford to buy several bikes but are very sick to enjoy even the air in the park. Who is wealthier therefore? Us or them? Or, simply put, who is happier, you or the poor kid agonizing on his bed?”
I know what father wanted me to realize then. I am better off than anyone in the hospital. I am better off even if I have no bike. I am better off because I am healthy.
My father would quip every time I would cast a teary eye on something which I would fancy somewhere along the line, “Health is wealth.” I would hear this almost everywhere, expressed in almost senseless way, but for me it has gained a new meaning, a valuable implication, a significant consideration. That health is everything and on top of every other mundane consideration whether it is material or something intellectual.
I took a leaf from the wisdom of that trip in the hospital with my father.
What is there to appreciate in life? It’s health, nothing more.