Thursday, September 11, 2008

(Not) Taking Things For Granted

Imagine that you could only have ice cream once every three months. If you don't like ice cream, consider having some treat that you enjoy a lot in the place of ice cream. If you could have it only once in awhile, it'd be very special when you did have it and you'd really appreciate it.

One of my students is studying sociology and she had to write an assignment answering one of a number of questions. The question I recommend she consider was how social status affects your life. As we discussed the topic to help her flesh out an answer for her essay, she mentioned that her mother and husband, who are both physicians, often take gifts and acts of kindness for granted because they receive them so easily and often. I told her that this was an excellent example for her to use in her essay since doctors have high prestige in most cultures and this showed how their status both changed the way they interacted with others and others interacted with them.

While English teachers have far lower status than doctors, they do have rather personal relationships with their students and, Japanese people being the generous sorts that they are when it comes to gifts, they often give us nice things. One thing I can definitely say is that neither my CH nor I ever take the gifts we receive for granted no matter how often we receive them. Mind you, we don't get them nearly as often as doctors, but it is a steady trickle of generosity.

So many goodies, such weak willpower. The student who gave these cleverly put the Ho Ho's and Ding Dongs ("Ding Dong, man, Ding Dong, yo" - if you know where that comes from, here's a geek star for your forehead) in the Lipton green tea box to protect their delicious junk food integrity.

If you go back to my original example, imagine you can have something you love only about once a year or less. With that level of frequency, you are really going to enjoy that treat when you get it. Recently, one of my CH's students gave him the lavish assortment of goodies you see pictured above. I'm sure to people back home this is just a random assortment of goodies they can get any time (well, maybe not the See's candy which is a super incredible box of decadence and joy), but, to us, it's a rare parcel of fun from the U.S. that someone kindly procured for us. Suffice it to say, we do not take it for granted and are always very appreciative when students do such things for us.


Melanie Gray Augustin said...

I know what you mean about those special foods! It's always so exciting to get things from back home, which before moving to Japan, was just taken for granted.

Orchid64 said...

I think that's really kind of a nifty aspect of it. It's not really deprivation, but it is a way of seeing the mundane as special. I think we'd all be happier if we could see the mundane as special more often. :-)

Thanks for commenting!

Kelly said...

I know what you mean, but in my case it happened because of a wheat allergy that suddenly came upon my body. I found i could no longer eat bread, gravy, pancakes, pasta, even bulldog sauce!

For one year i couldn't eat the things i really love, and it was really hard to find foods that did not contain wheat! It seems almost all foods contain wheat.

I had no warning that this would be the case. If i had of known i would have made sure to eat my favourite foods for the last time. As it happened i underwent extensive acupuncture treatments for 6 months which resulted in a cure of my wheat allergy.

I am back to being able to eat wheat products, but i do take care not to eat too much in case it ever happens again, and i am so grateful to once again be able to eat those foods, and feel that i would never take it for granted again.