Unpacking Gratitude

(Estimated reading time 3 minutes) In the last two months, I’ve had to deal with a lot of things I find challenging. We’ve been undertaking a significant renovation while living in our house. There’s been dirt, lots of noise, no routine. Nothing is where it should be – not even the kitchen. Everything is upside down. It has been quite stressful.  Despite the upheaval, I have managed it all with fewer meltdowns than I expected.

Part of what has helped me was the perspective I gained from our recent trip to South Africa. I’ve learned to be grateful for heat and running water, for a place to sleep and cook. Normal life may have been turned upside down, but we still have so much to be grateful for. Even if you’re not in the middle of a renovation, I think we can all relate to a world feeling like it’s been turned upside down.

By the way, this is the speech that won me second place at the Toastmasters Area competition a few weeks back.  


Some reflection time with tea and a beautiful view in Cape Town, South Africa.

Unpacking Gratitude

What do you take for granted?

I recently returned from a trip to South Africa. As I began to unpack my experiences, I started to see how much I have to be grateful for.

My travels turned my routine upside down. These three experiences toppled out and taught me something about gratitude and how much I take for granted.

Experience 1

Cape Town (one of the cities we visited and the place some of my family lives) has had some severe water restrictions at times over the past few years. As house guests, we were given the water restriction rules:

The toilet

The rule for the toilet is this, “when it’s yellow, let it mellow when it’s brown flush it down.”  Getting used to that was a challenge.


If you’re like me, you shower or bath whenever you want without much thought for water. Imagine before you have your shower, you first need to think about how many liters of water you have already used for the day or whether a shower is a good idea if you also need to do a load of laundry. Then, having decided to shower, you put a bucket underneath you to catch the water you use. You shower as fast as you can. There’s no time to let that water warm up before you begin! Water on, wet, off. Shampoo, soap. Water on. Rinse. Off. Done. Now you save the water in the bucket – it’s called grey water – for that time in the day, you really need to flush the toilet.

To smell fresh, to wear clean clothes, to be able to flush every time – these are things I’d barely noticed before. Now I have a heightened awareness of how difficult life can be without access to water. I am thankful in a new way for a plentiful supply of clean water.

Experience 2

We stayed one night in Botswana before being picked up and driven into the bushveld for five days on safari. We were in a strange country, with no car, no local currency and no knowledge of the area. It so happens that on that night, I unexpectedly needed feminine hygiene products. It was 9:30 pm, it was dark. Was it safe to go out at night? Was there a store nearby? Would they even have what I needed? I had a moment of panic as I thought about being unable to get tampons. How would I function in the bush for a week?

As I unpacked that experience, it dawned on me that feminine hygiene products change women’s lives. There are many women (especially in the third world) who have to miss school or work every time they menstruate, not because they want to, but because they don’t have access to these products. I never thought I’d be grateful for personal care items, now I know life can be hard without them.

Experience 3:

We spent a lot of time with our family on this trip. It was wonderful and challenging.  As an introvert, I need time on my own to recharge and be at my best. I find it a bit exhausting to be with others (even those I love) all the time. This experience of a lack of personal space was put into perspective as I saw the rows on rows on rows of shacks in Khayelitsha, a vast shantytown on the outskirts of Cape Town. I wondered about all the introverts that are forced to live there. When do they get alone time? How do they recharge amid so many people living in close proximity? Perhaps my lack of personal space wasn’t really a lack of personal space, after all.

These three experiences all made me realize I take way too much for granted. I’m grateful for all those little and big things that make up my version of normal.

What are you grateful for?

Follow up from last week

So many of you responded to last week’s blog post. Here are some of the things you want to reclaim from your childhood self:

  • Joyful enthusiasm
  • Wonder in every day things
  • Adventures outside in nature
  • Shared smiles
  • Engaging my imagination more often
  • Finding time for things I love like playing music
  • A childhood sense of mystery about life
  • The innocent abandon of play

What do you want to reclaim from your childhood self? If you want to read the post you can find it here

Sue Das, Courage Coach, CPCC, ACC, B Soc Sc (SW)

Connect with me about coaching

2 thoughts on “Unpacking Gratitude

  1. great article/blog Sue. as I read it my mind went back to when I spend some time in Kenya & Uganda doing international development. Now each day as I enjoy the luxury of plentiful hot water, I thank God for it – shower, laundry, etc.

    The attitude of gratitude is vital to live in freedom – my Mom always started and ended her day in prayer of thanksgiving.

    appreciate your writings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re absolutely right about gratitude being essential and helping us to find freedom even when we are burdened. I love that your memories of your development work in the past are still giving you perspective on your life today.


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