I thought this post would be straightforward to write, but I am finding it harder than I assumed. I took it for granted that it would be easy.
There are many times in my daily life living in a new country that I think of this phrase, “I can’t take that for granted.” So I decided to look into what “taking something for granted” actually means. Do we have anything granted to us, ever? Maybe we are granted a degree or a certificate, but we earn those. There is no genie. Who is granting wishes? Who is the grantor? What does “taking something for granted” even mean?
The Cambridge Dictionary describes the phrase as meaning: “To never think about something because you believe it will always be available or stay exactly the same.”
If you never think about something because you believe it will always be, it still means you haven’t thought about it at all (that is the never part) so the point is moot. Robert Charles Lee, from the internet, says he is a British speaker working in American English 35 + years in editing and publishing, so I will take him at his word. Yes, I will take his word for granted that he is a qualified reference in my super scientific academically sophisticated personal blog. At least he has a better explanation.
Mr. Lee says that “take for granted” is an English idiom, where the meaning of the whole phrase isn’t based on the literal meanings of the words. Uh huh. So we basically throw this phrase around like we know what it means when it doesn’t really mean what the words say. Even the words of the phrase are taken for granted! Yikes. This is very tricky.
For the record, Mr. Lee offers 4 definitions of “take for granted”. I won’t dwell on these, but they make sense to me, and seem to fit the occasions I think about taking or not taking things for granted.
1. To consider as real or true,
2. To underestimate the value,
3. To display or convey ungratefulness,
4. Expectation that something is available by default.
One of the reasons we moved our kids to Israel from the US is because we wanted them to see American-white-Jewish-upper-middle-class-suburban-life from another perspective. There is so much about our AWJUMCS life that is comfortable, luxurious, and easy, that we may be unaware of the obviousness of the blessings that could be taken for granted.
Moving to another country forces an awareness of the basics. Everything is turned inside out and you see it, like a thickness in the air. Some things are better, and some things are harder. In both cases, I am more present, and less taking things for granted, so to speak.
For example, walking. In the middle of the city we walk everywhere. Our suburban drive to school is replaced by a purposeful walk to the neighborhood school. I notice the simple significance of the conversations we have while walking. There must be something that happens to the brain, the body, and the spirit when you walk, because we walk and talk and talk and talk. I relish the conversations I have with my kids when we walk together. I don't take this for granted.
Another example is package delivery. In the states, Amazon and I were on a one-click basis. I could get whatever I needed, wanted, or desired delivered to my doorstep within hours. If a package was one day late I would be irate and COMPLAIN like the world was ending, and get my package refunded as a customer relations concession. So there!
Here, my few attempts at home delivery have failed miserably. One time, a package ended up at a pet shop for “my convenience” to pick up, long story. My resolution for now is that I don't order packages in the mail anymore. It feels like the 70’s! And yet, I am supporting local stores with things I need, not ordering things I don't need, and marveling at how entitled I felt in the US with the abundance of instantaneous convenience. Again, no judgment here, no right or wrong, just different.
Most importantly for now, I want to express my gratitude that you read this. When I write these posts I feel close to you. This is how I share the secrets of my daily mundane life when you are far away. We aren't together anymore and these posts bridge my sense of separation. I don't take the distance and your time for granted. I am more grateful than can be expressed in words, but this is what we have.