Life can be daunting. We're late to work because the train was delayed or traffic was terrible. Our boss annoys us, and our paycheck never seems to be enough.
There are days when it seems like the world just has it out for you. I know it. I feel you.
But sometimes you really need to take a moment to check yourself and think about everything you have — even when you REALLY do not want to play the grateful game.
As tough as it may seem, there's so much that we take for granted every day. Just reflect on everything that wouldn't be possible if you were simply born in another country or with different financial circumstances.
Even during those times when you feel like the unluckiest person in history, there's no denying that you're still leaps and bounds more fortunate than the majority of people in the world.
So, before you complain about Meredith in accounting and how she's always sending passive aggressive emails, ask yourself this: What would it be like if I couldn't read those emails in the first place? Or if I couldn't type a response? What if I didn't even have an email account because I never learned how to read and write?
Yet as far out as these scenarios might seem, they remain the reality not only for people across the globe, but also for 36 million Americans. Yes, 36 million people in the US cannot read or write above a third-grade level. That's roughly 10 percent of the population.
When you stop to reflect, there really is so much to be thankful for because we are all truly blessed.
In case you need reminding of how lucky you really are — and let's be real, we all do from time to time — here are four things we couldn't do if we weren't able to read or write.
1. The simple act of reading.
Think about this one for a second. Imagine how many things would not be possible if you didn't have the ability to read. Imagine how difficult the most basic tasks would become. The ability to read underpins everything you do in your everyday life.
2. Getting to work.
What would you do if, one day, you simply couldn't get to work? How would you hold a job?
The ability to read is critically important in our ability to get around. If you couldn't read, how could you navigate your commute? How could you tell which train is uptown and which is downtown? How could you read a map to find where you're headed?
How could you even purchase the ticket to get on the subway? Ask yourself these questions the next time you're complaining about public transportation and your frustrating commute to the office.
3. Answering a letter.
We don't often think about it, but being able to respond to even a simple postcard or email is a luxury. How could you respond to mail, keep up with current events or read and reply to a friend's text message if you didn't know how to read? Again, you rely on your knowledge of how to read and write without even realizing it.
4. Making a dinner reservation.
If you really think about all of the things you couldn't do without the ability to decipher words, you'd quickly realize the list comprises virtually everything you do in a typical day. Even the most mundane tasks would quickly become impossible. You couldn't pick up a phone and make a simple dinner reservation, let alone something more important like applying for a job.
Think this one through: You couldn't even tell a host at your favorite pizza place that you'd like a table for four tonight because when you opened the phonebook, you wouldn't be able to read the name of the pizza place. It's just another example of how the repercussions of illiteracy reverberate across the lives of so many people.
Lacking the skill to read and write would be socially crippling. We have to appreciate how fortunate we have been and make an effort to help others who haven't had the same kind of privileged upbringing.
There are so many people who never received the type of formal schooling that many of us have. It's tragic and truly heartbreaking, but also humbling.
So, the next time you're simply ordering off a menu or reading a simple subway map or the morning news, remember how lucky you are that you can decipher the words on the page.
In this week's episode of Secret Lives of Americans, we meet Cleo, who has been harboring a secret for years: she does not know how to read. Find out how she changed the conversation about adult literacy by watching this video, and then visit the series' Take Action hub to find out how you can get involved.