There are many things I have taken for granted in my life, and I say this to my shame. It seems as though until you experience the lack, or whatever it may be personally effects your life, do you realize how much you took for granted, and how foolish it was.

Some things I take for granted are small and of little importance. For instance, running water. Last winter I learned what a blessing it is to have water flowing out of the faucet when you turn it on. All my life I’ve known faucets to relinquish their substance of h2o when I turn the knob or lift the lever. It wasn’t until one morning I turned the faucet on and nothing came out of the spigot did I realize how much I took for granted the maze of plumbing pipes below me when they’re in proper working order. That morning I had to melt snow to wash my face, I had to drink bottled water, and horror or horrors, I could not take a shower. In fact, the lesson of how much I take running water for granted stretched on for 2 days before the plumber could fix our problem. By then the message really got through to me.

Yes, I purposely put that really handy feature in today’s life under the not-so-important-things-I-used-to-take-for-granted. For there are things of much more intrinsic value. Running water I still deem a necessity, but when it wasn’t working, there were other avenues we were able to take. We had access to water through our kind neighbors and friends—all of whom have running water (I wonder if they know how blessed they are)—who wouldn’t allow us to live in thirst and dehydration. It was just a lot of extra work and hassle.

It seems like the most valuable treasures I possess in my life, I take for granted the most. One such treasure would be the Blood of Christ.. I forget how much Christ sacrificed for me that I might have eternal life. His nail-scars have a tendency to fade into the oblivion of day-to-day life. I don’t remember how precious He is. We were able to live without running water, yet if His blood had not flowed that day some 2000 years ago, we would be creatures without hope with nothing to live for.

There’s another element in life that I have taken for granted. It’s on a more American level. On 9/11 when firefighters and rescue workers gave their lives in a quest to save their fellow man, I took them and their families for granted. I thought their brave deeds were indeed heroic and honorable but I did not consider the personal sacrifice they made, the pain they suffered and the void they left. I honored and respected them for what they did, but didn’t take time to consider and appreciate who they were.

And then there were the brave men and women who were deployed to quench the terror of the terrorist, bring freedom to Iraqis and defend our own freedoms as a nation. Yes, I took them for granted too. The troops registered in my mind as the number I heard over the news. I confess that seldom did I stop to consider each number as a person, with families they had to leave behind, friendships they had to put on hold, and lives they laid on the line when duty called. Many sacrificed everything for the sake of my freedom and protection.

Not to say that the sight of a flag-draped coffin never insinuated a tear, or never caused my heart to beat to a patriotic rhythm. I guess I just thought of our soldiers more as brave extra-human super-heroes to respect and not so much as people to appreciate. It’s because I took them for granted.

I criticized the imperfections of our nation and focused more on the outrageous disgust of the sins and perversion that has taken hold of it. Our national heroes in the form of men in uniform were like faded background entities that I seldom considered.

The horrors of 9/11 had a different effect on my brother. The firefighters and rescue workers were his heroes. He joined the fire department as soon as his age would allow him. He took up EMT and pretty much lived for the sound of his pager. I ceased to take his work for granted as I heard the tales of fires he fought and lives he had saved.

9/11 also sparked an indignation against the destruction the terrorists employed that day, and the innocent lives they took. Being a firefighter and EMT wasn’t enough. He joined the army.

I can no longer find it in me to take our soldiers or their families for granted. I realize now what kind of sacrifices they make and I can’t help but appreciate them far more than words can say. No, our country is not perfect. But I do love it. It is the place God has blessed me to call home. And I can’t help but be proud of my brother, proud to be an American, and proud to truly know this nation as the land of the free and home of the brave. I thank God for the blessings for which I have for so long taken for granted.

To those of you who serve our country, I say a big thank you for the sacrifices you have made for those who usually just take you for granted. It’s because of you and people like you that I can live in peace and freedom. And to your family members and friends, well, now I know what your shoes feel like.