My only request, here at the beginning, is that you read these words with an open mind and an open heart.
Go back in time with me. The year is 1900. Only about 30 percent of Americans owned their homes in 1900, compared to 70 percent today. And those homes weren’t much. Typically, they were unheated, crowded farmhouses or rundown tenements. Less than three percent of them had electricity; fewer than one in five had running water, flushing toilets, or central heating. Most Americans cooked on wood burning stoves and read, if they could read, by the dim light of kerosene lanterns.
Working conditions were terrible. In 1900 boys typically went to work at age 14 and kept working—an average of 60 hours a week—until they died. No paid vacations, no guarantees of job safety, no job security, no retirement plans, no health care, no Social Security. Pay was low, averaging less than $4800 in today’s dollars compared to an average of about $32,000 currently. And you know how hard it can be to live on even that amount.
Women rarely worked outside the home at the dawn of the 20th century and they couldn’t vote. In 1900 almost half of the income had to go for food compared to about 10 percent today. Infant mortality was high, even in the upper classes.
In 1900 there were fewer than 5000 millionaires in the US. Today, there are more than eight million, and even 269 billionaires, two and a half times that of Japan, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Britain combined.
A child born in 1900 had 60 percent chance of completing grade school and if they stayed in school, they only went to 8th grade. Fewer than one in four graduated from high school and only the very wealthy went to college.
The average life span in 1900 was less than 50 for both men and women. Most people only had the bare necessities and many—MANY—didn’t even have those.
These few statistics are not meant to make you feel guilty. On the contrary, my hope is that they help you to realize how much you possess on every level, especially when you begin to feel sorry for yourself. More than likely, today you live better than 99 percent of all Americans in 1900. Even the rich of those days would envy you.
With that in mind, take a few moments to reaffirm and extend your personal gratitude for the blessings in your life. Here’s a simple little way to begin. Get a picture in your mind of your favorite room in your home. See the large pieces of furniture, or the electronics, or the appliances, or the walls and curtains. Now, look beyond those bigger items. Find the small things that you may overlook when thinking about appreciation. What about that favorite old book you haven’t looked at for a while? Or the vase your grandmother gave you that you thought was rather plain, so you have a spreading plant in it. Or the candleholders you take for granted. The modem for your internet connection. The smoke alarm. The potholders hanging in the kitchen. The teapot on the stove. See the bed linens, the towels in the bathroom, the chairs on the patio or deck. You get the picture.
As you begin to see all the riches you actually possess, you come to understand how blessed you actually are. And if you have been taking it all for granted, now is your quiet opportunity to reaffirm and reestablish a grateful link with everything and everyone in your life. Whatsoever things are good, think on these things.
Beginning each day with a grateful heart and mind sets a positive tone for the entire day. So, when you awaken tomorrow, look around the room and be glad you live in the present year. It could have been very different.